NSF Coastal Ocean Processes (CoOP)

Goals and Objectives

Human activity profoundly affects the coastal ocean, and coastal waters, in turn, influence the lives of the vast and increasing populations that live near them. A better understanding of this environment is imperative for reasons that range from navigation and defense needs to fisheries and weather forecasting.

Toward this end, an interdisciplinary group of coastal ocean scientists has joined together to launch CoOP (Coastal Ocean Processes). We define the coastal ocean as extending from the surf zone to the edge of the continental rise, an area generally ranging from 100 to 1000 kilometers wide and including large inland water bodies that exhibit similar processes. The coastal ocean provides a buffer between the land and the deep ocean. It is dynamically distinct and often isolated from the rest of the ocean. It harbors a number of unique physical and meteorological processes that promote high biological productivity, active sedimentary processes, dynamic chemical transformations and intense air-sea interaction.

Coastal ocean science has traditionally been undertaken by small groups of investigators from one or two disciplines. This approach has succeeded in studies of processes specificto a single discipline, such as tides, but has not built understanding of the complex processes that cut across traditional scientific divisions, such as toxic blooms or sediment dynamics. Although there will always be a crucial role for small groups of investigators, we believe the time is right for large-scale, fully interdisciplinary approaches to the study of the coastal ocean. CoOP therefore encompasses biological, chemical and geological oceanographers as well as marine meteorologists and physical oceanographers. This group's goal is:
Understanding cross-margin transport is central to achieving this goal. It links processes at work near the coast to those operating over the shelf and farther offshore. Different processes dominate this transport near the surface, in the central water column, and near the bottom, so that we must pay close attention to each zone. These considerations helped to shape the particular CoOP objectives, to understand:
To address this set of objectives, the CoOP plan calls for an extended effort. A sequence of process studies receives primary emphasis and gives structure to the overall CoOP effort. Each of these studies focusses on a specific coastal region where one important process dominates. Modeling studies will be integrated with the process studies and used as a means to synthesize and generalize study results. The geographical diversity of the coastal ocean is too great to allow careful measurements throughout, so the generalizing capabilities of models are crucial to the overall effort. In addition, long time-series measurements, exploratory studies, technological development, and communications (including with the applied science community) all require attention. CoOP is expected to attract support from a number of agencies having an interest in the coastal ocean sciences.

The organization of CoOP calls for scientists to initiate the major CoOP field studies; for each, one scientist will be charged with organizing a workshop to define the specificinterdisciplinary objectives and approach. The CoOP steering committee will then work with the scientist to refine the resulting plan to assure that it is well-defined, scientifically satisfying and appropriately interdisciplinary. Further, the steering committee will interact with funding agencies to help coordinate and prioritize the scientific efforts.

From Brink et al. 1992. Coastal Ocean Processes: A Science Prospectus. Technical Report WHOI-92-18. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA