Important changes are expected in the exploitation of the North Sea area over the next decades. This process has already started and a growing scale of harvesting (wind-) energy is planned in
vast areas of the North Sea. Moreover, the energy transition dictates decommissioning of current production platforms for oil and gas that are now used for operational meteorological observations.
These developments combined require a complete re-design of the operational system for weather information on the North Sea. On the one hand, we have to prepare for the effects of largescale
developments of wind farms. At the same time, alternative observation platforms need to be arranged to fill gaps resulting from decommissioning of existing platforms.
The North Sea Atmospheric Observatory (NSAO) builds on the Large Scale Research Infrastructure ‘Ruisdael Observatory’ and provides an important contribution to scientific developments needed
to address these issues. To estimate the local effects current observations are insufficient. Additional observations are needed, in particular those that measure the physical state of the
atmosphere in the vertical dimension. This knowledge will enable the design of a new network of observing stations in the North Sea area that will be optimised to address the local effects that are
needed for a safe use of the North Sea area.
Furthermore, the growing scale of harvesting energy will alter the behaviour of the atmosphere such that changes in weather patterns (visibility, clouds and precipitation) can be expected. These
effects will happen locally, but since the prevailing wind direction in The Netherlands is from the West, advected weather from that direction will also be altered. Here exists a synergy with the roadmap project Ruisdael Observatory and NSAO could be thought of as ‘Ruisdael Observatory at Sea’. Concepts that have been developed in the past for the first time at the Cabauw atmospheric observatory are now being implemented in Rotterdam (an urban location) and Lutjewad (a location on a land-sea boundary) by the joint Dutch atmospheric research community. Extending these concepts to over the North Sea area will enable addressing the issues regarding the change of spatial planning of the North Sea area.
Challenging questions to be addressed are:
- What are the local feedbacks? The wind farms will have an effect on the turbulence, and therefore the development of the marine boundary layer. The dispersion and mixing of sea spray effects the formation of fog and therefore visibility. Can those effects be fully understood?
- What are the effects on weather in the area? Due to the turbulence and effects on the boundary layer, what will be the effects on cloud formation and subsequently, precipitation patterns? How far will these effects extend beyond the areas directly in the vicinity of the wind farms?
- What are the feedbacks between the atmospheric changes and the (sub-)marine environment? Will there be further feedbacks if the marine environment changes to wave patterns and therefore occurrence of sea spray?
These questions are interlinked and cannot be answered separately. NSAO extends the observing and modelling capacity to address those questions. The current observation capacity will be
enhanced with three advanced stations strategically positioned in the North Sea to measure insitu, and vertical profiles of the physical state of the atmosphere. The observations will be used to
better understand the physical mechanisms. This knowledge can be used to optimise models for this specific environment.
In the next phase, the knowledge gained will be used to create the next generation of the operational atmospheric observation infrastructure in the North Sea area. The existing infrastructure today will have to be replaced, since the production platforms for oil and gas that are used today will be decommissioned. NSOA will provide the necessary scientific basis to provide an optimised operational network of atmospheric observing stations taking into account the feedbacks by the new spatial planning for the North Sea area with the wind farms in place. In this way, the observation and modelling infrastructure can be put in place to model (forecast) the local effects, as well as feedbacks on the weather and precipitation patterns, that will also extend from over the sea to over land.
The North Sea Atmospheric Observatory consists of a dense network of ‘ground’ stations spread over the Dutch part situated on oil- and gas-platforms and on windfarms that provide data on the
physical properties of the atmosphere and of the hydrology. This observatory will need additional remote sensing equipment to study the impact of the energy harvesting more closely and to obtain
less disturbed observations and new locations in the northern part. A computational facility processes the observed data real-time and high resolutions models. In this way, the North Sea Atmospheric Observatory provides a detailed 3D picture of changes in local weather and climate and addresses the great challenge: short-term, local and detailed forecasts as well as predicting future developments.
The North Sea Atmospheric Observatory is optimized to address the challenges the atmospheric sciences face. The energy transition is of vital importance for our way of life, economy and
mitigation of climate change. A large portion will be realized at the North Sea. The renewable energy is due to the location of the windfarms and its impact connected to the fishery, the
shipping, the ecology, sea-level rise, safety, the local weather and local climate and hydrology Together all the functions constitute a new ‘sea landscape’, where interactions are expected to
function in a different way than ever before. The scale of the wind-harvesting is growing larger than ever before, so the impact will be prominent and is completely new.
Present facilities to study atmospheric processes do not focus on the processes on the North Sea and they lack the ability to routinely link data and models at different spatial and temporal scales,
which is essential for the improvement of the reliability of climate change predictions and sink/source attribution. This void will be filled by the North Sea Atmospheric Observatory.
Observations and models will be merged in real time to extrapolate the spatial representativity of local observations and form a virtual laboratory for studying multi-scale processes in atmospheric
chemistry, hydrology and physics, and by doing so improve the accuracy of climate, weather and air quality models.
This merger of observations and models within North Sea Atmospheric Observatory involves:
- the deployment of sensor and remote sensing networks for attribution of spatial variability
- transforming measurement profiles from 1D vertical profiles of wind, temperature, humidity, clouds and rain to true 3D volume scans to get a realistic representation of the atmospheric variability and dynamics influencing the small-scale processes;
- introducing the observational capability to study fundamental small-scale processes and the impact of large scale windfarms
- simultaneous coupling of models to the observational data acquired at different spatial and temporal scales at sea level, in the atmosphere as well as from space.
The North Sea Atmospheric Observatory is an advancement and extension of existing facilities:
- Ruisdael Observatory
-The CESAR Observatory in Cabauw. This is one of the most advanced and complete atmospheric monitoring stations worldwide, that is part of many international networks, including ICOS and ACTRIS;
-The coastal atmospheric monitoring station Lutjewad in the North of the country. Lutjewad is incorporated in the European ICOS network for greenhouse gases and related tracers;
- A forest station in Loobos for measuring the atmosphere–land interaction of CO2, H2O, biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs), and ozone, also part of ICOS, in an environment different from Cabauw;
- A distributed urban network in Greater Rotterdam;
- A mobile facility for measurements between the fixed stations and for routinely mapping GHG concentrations;
- The computational capability for real-time Large-Eddy simulations;
- A world class facility to distribute measurement data and model results, based on ongoing activities within the ICOS-RI Carbon Portal project.
Both CESAR and ICOS-NL from the 2016 National Roadmap for Large-Scale Scientific Infrastructure are integrated in the Ruisdael Observatory. Ruisdael Observatory is the Dutch contribution to the ESFRI projects ACTRIS (Aerosols, Trace Gases and Clouds Research Infrastructure) and ICOS (Integrated Carbon Observatory)."