Can ocean gliders improve our ocean forecast models?

CASE project with Cefas (HALL_UENV19ARIES)

Can ocean gliders improve our ocean forecast models?

CASE project with Cefas (HALL_UENV19ARIES)

Project Description


Dr Rob Hall (UEA Environmental Sciences)

Dr Jennifer Graham (Cefas)

Dr Jeff Polton (National Oceanography Centre, Liverpool)

Dr Stephen Dye (Cefas)

Prof David Stevens (UEA)

Scientific Rationale

The shallow seas over continental shelves are an important sink in the global carbon cycle and therefore have a large impact on Earth’s climate. Despite their importance, these shelf seas are not well represented in global climate simulations. Climate models struggle to reproduce the exchange of heat, freshwater and carbon between shelf seas and the deep ocean, due to complex interactions between the processes involved.

Around the European continental shelf, water typically flows onto the shelf in the surface layer, and off-shelf near the bottom. This downwelling circulation exports carbon to the deep ocean, away from the atmosphere. The processes that drive cross-shelf exchange can only be accurately simulated using regional models with grid spacings of order 1 km; coarser resolution global models, currently used to assess the carbon cycle, miss these processes.

A new generation of ocean models has recently been developed that begin to resolve these shelf break processes (Graham et al., 2018). Combined with high-resolution observations from autonomous ocean gliders (e.g. Queste et al., 2016; Hall et al., 2017; Sheehan et al., 2018), there is potential for a step-change in our understanding of the physical drivers of carbon export.

Research Methodology

High-resolution ocean glider observations will be compared with output from operational ocean forecast models to determine the key processes driving cross-shelf exchange and assess model performance. The project will develop a two-way synergy between modelling and observations, with simulations informing glider mission planning as well as real-time operations, and observations informing model simulation weaknesses.

Advanced Training

You will be trained in numerical modelling of dynamic ocean processes and advanced methods for data processing, analysis and visualisation. You will participate in a research cruise, gaining experience in observational oceanographic methods, and as part of the UEA Glider Group ( be involved with the deployment and piloting of gliders during upcoming campaigns.

Person Specification

The ideal candidate will have a physical science degree or similar (e.g., oceanography, meteorology, physics, environmental sciences, engineering, mathematics; 2.1 or above). Experience with computer programming languages (e.g. Matlab, Python) will be an advantage. A background in ocean science is not required.


  • Graham, J. A., E. O’Dea, J. Holt, J. Polton, et al., 2018: AMM15: a new high-resolution NEMO configuration for operational simulation of the European north-west shelf, Geoscientific Model Development, 11, 681–696, doi:10.5194/gmd-11-681-2018.
  • Hall, R. A., T. Aslam, and V. A. I. Huvenne, 2017: Partly standing internal tides in a dendritic submarine canyon observed by an ocean glider. Deep-Sea Research Part I, 126, 73–84, doi:10.1016/j.dsr.2017.05.015.
  • Queste, B. Y., L. Fernand, T. D. Jickells, K. J. Heywood, and A. J. Hind, 2016: Drivers of summer oxygen depletion in the central North Sea, Biogeosciences, 13, 1209–1222, doi:10.5194/bg-13-1209-2016, 2016.
  • Sheehan, P. M. F., S. L. Hughes, B. Berx, A. Gallego, R. A. Hall, K. J. Heywood, and B. Y. Queste, 2018: Shelf sea tidal currents and mixing fronts determined from ocean glider observations. Ocean Science, 14, 225–236, doi:10.5194/os-14-225-2018.

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