Marine Systems Modelling

Marine Systems Modelling

The National Oceanography Centre is a world-leader in numerical modelling of the global oceans and shelf seas. This includes modelling the ocean circulation and heat transport, marine ecosystems, sea-ice, turbulence, surface waves, sediment transport, tides and storm surges.

Our science has the following aims.

  • To develop and maintain existing world-leading models which are individually applicable to the global oceans and shelf seas with an ability to couple such models together
  • To develop a new world-leading modelling system which is seamlessly applicable to the deep-ocean, shelf and coastal seas and estuaries, and is highly efficient on the next generation of super-computers
  • To develop a unified UK ecosystem-modelling framework that encompasses appropriate levels of complexity, and the embedding of this within the new physical modelling systems
  • To work with partners to develop global models of the climate system, including high-resolution ocean and atmosphere components, sea-ice, and other components of the earth system
  • To develop a regional earth system modelling capability for shelf seas, including waves, sediments, ecosystems, ice, hydrology, land surface and atmospheric modelling
  • To establish the NOC as an international leader in the prediction and understanding of the impacts of climate and direct anthropogenic change on the marine environment.


NOC’s scientists investigate the role of oceanic processes in determining Earth’s mean climate, its natural variability – including extreme events and its response to external and anthropogenic forcing. We aim to improve the ability to predict regional climate change on seasonal-centennial timescales by developing and applying methods to quantify and reduce uncertainty in key areas, such as: knowledge of surface fluxes, ocean and climate projections based on numerical models, observing strategies, and how observations are compared to model simulations.

We use leading-edge modelling approaches to understand the present state of global-scale biogeochemical cycles and ecosystems. Our models are used to predict how future climate change and ocean acidification (among other changes) will impact the role of the ocean biota in ecosystem services and socio-economic aspects of the oceans. This research is organised around three core activities – climate change modelling; high resolution modelling of biophysical interactions; and development of the next generation UK marine biogeochemistry model.

We study the impact of decadal scale change on shelf and coastal seas, working with fine resolution shelf sea and basin-scale regional models. We investigate how climate variability and change, alongside direct human induced drivers, propagate from oceanic, terrestrial and atmospheric source through the marine system to impact on the services provided by the marine environment and the hazards posed. We consider the hydrodynamic environment and its interaction with ecosystems.

Scientists at the NOC develop tools and studies processes to better understand the dynamic controls for shelf seas and coastal zones. Employing high performance computing, researchers work with a range of regional model configurations (both structured and unstructured) from the global shelf seas, simulating scales from centimetres to thousands of kilometres.

World-leading ocean-sea-ice models are developed by researchers at NOC to study ocean dynamics including internal variability and the response to changes at the air-sea interface. The group also undertakes model-observation synthesis studies to gain insights into key processes (e.g. ocean heat uptake, high-latitude North Atlantic temperature variability).


NOC projects associated with this science area.

Project Dates
APEAR Advective Pathways of nutrients and key Ecological substances in the ARctic October 2018 to October 2022
ANCODE February 2018 to February 2021
Arctic PRIZE Arctic PRIZE, Arctic productivity in the seasonal ice zone February 2017 to February 2021
ARISE ARISE- Arctic isotopes and seals February 2017 to July 2020
Bridging International Activity and Related Research Into the Twilight Zone October 2018 to November 2020
Carbon Uptake and Seasonal Traits in Antarctic Remineralisation Depth April 2018 to March 2022
Climate Linked Atlantic Sector Science April 2018 to August 2023
C-RISC Coastal Resilience to flooding Impact through relocatable Storm surge forecasting Capability for developing nations January 2018 to April 2019
CME Programme Commonwealth Marine Economies (CME) Programme January 2016 to March 2020
Controls over Ocean Mesopelagic Interior Carbon Storage April 2017 to March 2021
DIAPOD DIAPOD Mechanistic understanding of the role of diatoms in the success of the Arctic Calanus complex and implications for a war February 2017 to February 2021
Ecowatt2050 Ecowatt2050 March 2014 to October 2017
Greenhouse Gases in the Earth System August 2013 to February 2018
Land Ocean CArbon TransfEr April 2016 to March 2020
SUPREME Newton Fund: Salt intrusion: Understanding the Pearl River Estuary by Modelling and field Experiments February 2018 to January 2021
Ocean Regulation of Climate by Heat and Carbon Sequestration and Transports (ORCHESTRA) April 2016 to March 2021
PRIMAVERA November 2015 to October 2019
Rapid Climate Change programme April 2003 to March 2021
Securing Multidisciplinary UndeRstanding and Prediction of Hiatus and Surge events September 2015 to November 2018
UK Earth system modelling April 2016 to March 2021