A well-crafted, three-dimensional dynamic model, fed by well-placed observations, is capable of providing the needed information about your piece of the ocean. Observations contribute to modeling in two ways: (1) they are assimilated to adjust the initial model fields for best start for a forecast, and (2) they are used to assess the skill of previous forecasts and allow the correction of models accordingly. In turn, models help the design of observation systems by suggesting the critical points in time and space for optimal data collection.
But without considering boundary influences, a local model will most likely be inaccurate-- no matter how many observations are assimilated. An estuary won't work properly without considering the influence of offshore coastal effects. The Gulf Stream placement and intensity won't be right without knowing how it enters and departs your domain. National forecasting systems like those managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) and National Ocean Services (NOS) or the Navy's Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO) approach ocean modeling at all scales. A global atmospheric model provides forcing for a global ocean model. Higher resolution basin and regional models nest within the global models and add properly scaled physics. These regional models provide boundary conditions for very high resolution coastal, estuary, or river models.
This systematic approach takes massive computer power, extreme automation, and constant checks and balances to ensure that the sequence of ocean models runs daily, delivers on time, and is accurate and reliable. These are the goals of your national modeling centers. Real-time graphics and data fields are available from these centers via NOAA web services. The objective of this presentation is to remind regional and academic oceanographers that the NOAA and Navy assets are robust, well-vetted, and available. We are working with Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) to expose our capabilities and improve the two-way exchanges of data, information, and advice.