JGOFS Symposium and Training course: Biogeochemistry of the Arabian Sea: Synthesis and Modelling

January 18 - 30, 1999
Bangalore, India

The Scientific Steering Committee for JGOFS, in an unusual move to combine the synthesis and capacity building functions of the program, decided to hold a series of events in Bangalore, India, to initiate the process of assembly, analysis, interpretation and synthesis of the results of the field work conducted in the Arabian Sea.

These events, together entitled "Biogeochemistry of the Arabian Sea: Synthesis and Modelling", took place in Bangalore, India from January 18 to 30 1999. A three-day symposium convened by Peter Burkill, Chair of the JGOFS Indian Ocean Synthesis and Modelling Group, was immediately followed by a 10 day training course on biogeochemical modelling of the ocean, convened by Trevor Platt, Chair of the IOCCG, and Shubha Sathyendranath.

An important JGOFS activity has been its regional study of the Arabian Sea, selected as an example of a system strongly forced by seasonally-reversing winds (monsoon cycle) and extreme variability in primary productivity due to the monsoonally-driven upwelling. This regional study involved scientists from 10 countries in numerous research cruises in the Arabian Sea - at least one in Force 11 winds!

The symposium attracted scientists from all of the countries which participated in JGOFS field work in the region (87 participants from 23 countries). A total of 33 papers was presented orally and, in addition, a poster session of nearly 20 papers gave young researchers an opportunity to present their work.

Several points, which arose in the symposium, such as the importance of remote sensing, the level of complexity needed to obtain realistic models of the ecosystem, inconsistencies between different kinds of measurements, were debated. One issue that attracted attention was whether the Arabian Sea was a source or a sink of CO2. Experimental results and modelling studies presented at the Symposium seemed to indicate that the Arabian Sea was a source of CO2. The Journal "Proceedings of the Indian Academy of Sciences", has offered to publish a peer-reviewed special issue of papers presented at the symposium. P.S. Swathi, M. Dileep Kumar, P. Burkill and R. Hanson have agreed to act as guest editors for the special issue.

The 10-day training course which followed the symposium was convened by Trevor Platt and Shubha Sathyendranath, and was funded by JGOFS (Joint Global Ocean Flux Study) as well as the following agencies:

  • C-MMACS (CSIR Centre for Mathematical Modelling and Computer Simulation);
  • IOC (Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission);
  • IOCCG (International Ocean Colour Coordinating Group);
  • SCOR (Scientific Committee for Oceanic Research); and
  • START (System for Analysis, Research and Training in Global Change Studies).

More than forty students (selected from about twice the number of applications) and eight instructors in the course came from twenty different industrialized and developing countries. All of the students and most instructors also participated in the symposium, (see list of participants) where they were exposed to much of the data collected in the JGOFS Arabian Sea Process Study and to the interpretation of these results. Thus, the symposium provided a context for the course to follow, especially for those participants lacking experience in working with oceanographic data. The students in the course ranged from graduate students to fairly senior researchers wishing to enhance their modelling skills.

The course included conceptual bases, analytical methods, numerical simulation, software and the use of remotely-sensed data on ocean colour as a tool for extrapolation. Practical experience in testing, using and developing various types of models was gained in day-long sessions spent at the Centre for Mathematical Modelling and Computer Simulation in Bangalore (C-MMACS).

The following topics were covered during the formal lectures:

  • Biological Processes in the Ocean (K. Banse, USA, T. Platt, Canada)
  • Modelling the Oceanic Mixed Layer (K. Denman, Canada)
  • Introduction to Modelling Bio-Geochemical Processes in the Ocean (G. Evans, Canada)
  • 3-Dimensional Modelling (V. Garcon, France)
  • Coupled Physical-Biological Model of the Arabian Sea (J. Kindle, USA)
  • Data Assimilation Methods in Complex Models (A. Oschlies, Germany)
  • The Use of Satellite Data to Model Oceanic Primary Productivity (T. Platt, Canada)
  • Box models of Biological, Physical and Chemical Processes (D. Ruiz-Pino, France)
  • Bio-optical Models and Ocean-Colour Remote Sensing (S. Sathyendranath, Canada)
  • Dynamic Models and Stability Analysis (A. Edwards, UK; K.S. Yajnik, India)
  • Inverse Modelling of Marine Food Webs (A. Vezina)
Besides lectures, computer demonstrations of models and software, along with hands-on training of students also formed a major part of the course. The computer demonstrations took place at C-MMACS. The demonstrations included:
  • Coupled Ecosystem Models (J. Blackford, UK)
  • Processing SeaWiFS data to obtain pigment concentrations (H. Bouman, Canada)
  • Mixed-Layer Modelling (K. Denman, Canada)
  • Coupled Bio-geochemical Models of the Arabian Sea (J. Kindle, USA; P.S. Swathi, India)
  • Performance of Data Assimilation Techniques (A. Oschlies, Germany)
  • Use of STELLA for Marine Ecosystem Modelling (D. Ruiz-Pino)
  • Inverse Modelling using MATLAB (A. Vezina, Canada)
Extensive lecture notes were also distributed to the participants. All the instructors volunteered their time. The conjunction of the symposium and the training course gave scientists in the Arabian Sea region an excellent opportunity to become involved in modeling the oceanic biogeochemistry of the region at a time when the intensity of this activity is about to increase. The timeliness of the combined symposium and training course will be enhanced by the newly-available, second-generation, satellite data on ocean colour. New research collaborations and new projects a re already being developed as a result of the contacts made between all of the participants, both students and instructors. We think many more are likely to develop in the near future.

The feedback from the students at the end of the course indicated that it was the first time they had received such a comprehensive training on several aspects of physics, biology and chemistry of the oceans. Participants said they felt rejuvenated and motivated by the course and symposium, and were looking forward to applying the new skills they had acquired in their research programmes.

The organisers are grateful to all the sponsors for their support of the training course, and to our local hosts from C-MMACS and NAL (National Aerospace Laboratories) at Bangalore, in particular to R.N. Singh, M.R. Narasimha Swami, P.S. Swathi, K.S. Yajnik (formerly of C-MMACS), R.P. Thangavelu and M.B. Ananada, for their skillful logistical and technical organization of these complex meetings. They were ably assisted by the travel agents of Clipper Holidays, who helped with hotel bookings, local transport and organisation of cultural activities. R. Hanson at the JGOFS International Programme Office in Bergen, and L. Gross at the SCOR office in Washington DC, provided invaluable help with the logistics, budget and funding, screening of student participants and with communications.

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