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Mercator Ocean organisation
Scientific Programme
The MERCATOR project is focussed on the development and implementation of a truly operational oceanography system capable of analysing and predicting ocean conditions for the global domain.
MERCATOR will describe and predict ocean conditions over the whole ocean column continuously and in real time, at scales ranging from global phenomena to regional eddies. MERCATOR is France's contribution to GODAE and during 2003-2005 it will make a significant contribution to the demonstration phase of GODAE by providing a routine and real time depiction of the global ocean.
MERCATOR produces near real-time “ocean-bulletins” that describe the three dimensional state of the ocean and short-term forecasts of its evolution. Four application user communities are directly engaged by MERCATOR:
  1. Ocean communities that live and work on the ocean and depend on it for their livelihood. This user community includes sailors, fishermen, merchant seamen, navy personnel or people involved in oceanographic research, operators of offshore oil rigs, but also operators of services concerning safety at sea or environmental surveillance and protection. The main user requirement is for information on the current mesoscale state of the ocean in their area of operation and of its evolution in the future. For example, mapping oceanic eddy structures and the meanders of main currents and forecasting their evolution, the intensity and direction of surface or deep currents, the temperature and salinity of water masses encountered, and the presence of frontal features.
  2. Scientific community that uses the MERCATOR system. Through the systematic combination, over several years, of observation data (real-time satellite and in situ measurements of actual conditions) and data provided by the model (three-dimensional vision and record of previous states), it provides an ongoing vision of the ocean in space and time. The performance of future operational oceanography systems depends directly on the research output of the Scientific community.
  3. Climate community. The global climate is a complex coupled system, governed by interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere that both have characteristic time scales. MERCATOR will provide regular operational analyses of the global ocean for experimental modelling of the coupled ocean/atmosphere system.
  4. Coastal community. Modelling and forecasting of the coastal ocean always has to take into account the specific local environment. However, the state of the offshore ocean and how it affects coastal areas is complex and operational modelling of local conditions requires timely knowledge of the impact of offshore conditions. MERCATOR will provide an accurate description of the state of the offshore ocean a few kilometres away from the coastline as boundary conditions for local coastal models.

The Project Team is based in Toulouse, France, which acts as the focal point for development work. Today, the team numbers 30 engineers and researchers from the overseeing organizations - Cnes, CNRS, Ifremer, IRD, Météo France, and Shom, supported by subsidiaries CERFACS and CLS, and occasionally by external computer services and engineering companies.

The Project Team comprises two components working alongside each other:

  • A Development and System Integration component responsible for specifying the MERCATOR system, developing its constituent elements, and implementing prototypes through to full system operation.
  • A Research and Development component responsible for conceptual system design and prototype studies, and for validating scientific performance of the operational system.