WASHINGTON — Sometimes knowing the weather forecast isn’t enough.
In the environments the Navy and Marine Corps operate, Sailors and Marines also have to navigate in the ocean, deal with waves, and in the era of a “Great Power Competition,” grow their ability to work in and around sea ice.
This need to know what to expect in the total environment is why researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory are working on extending the limits of environmental prediction by developing a globally-coupled model called the Earth System Prediction Capability, or ESPC.
“ESPC is probably the biggest project I've worked on,” said Carolyn Reynolds, PhD, a meteorologist at NRL’s Marine Meteorology Division in Monterey, California. “It's the longest project. It could be the project with the most impact. I'm very excited.”
Reynolds coordinates her division’s work on the atmospheric component of the ESPC.
“It's exciting because it's a new opportunity for us, as the Navy has never had atmospheric forecasts beyond 16 days or ocean forecasts beyond 7 days. Now we're going to have forecasts to 45 days,” Reynolds said. “We're not the first to couple models, but what makes us unique is that we have very high horizontal resolution in the ocean and sea ice components of the system.”
NRL scientists have been working on this project for more than four years now, and the effort relies on the expertise of researchers from a variety of disciplines: ocean modelers, atmospheric modelers, sea ice modelers, wave modelers, data assimilation experts and computer scientists.
In Monterey, NRL’s meteorologists contribute the atmospheric component for ESPC, while at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, NRL’s Ocean Sciences Division provides the ocean, sea ice, and wave components.
NRL already has models for each of ESPC’s individual components, and pieces of ESPC are already in use.
For example, the U.S. National Ice Center (NIC) is already using pre-operational 45-day sea ice forecasts from ESPC to support Arctic and Antarctic exercises and resupply missions.
“It’s the coupling of the individual components that creates the interdependency of ESPC,” said Joe Metzger, oceanography lead at Stennis Space Center. “We’re working hard to stitch them all together and then shepherd them through the transition process from research and development to operations at the Navy’s Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center.”