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European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet)

A spotlight on the EMODnet bathymetry portal: innovations and results

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Bathymetric data, in essence information about the water depth and underwater topography of oceans and seas, is important in many aspects of marine research, administration and spatial planning as well as for management of marine and coastal environments and their resources. In coastal areas societal needs are at the forefront: safety of vessel navigation is the most prioritized rationale for bathymetric mapping close to the coast, around shoals and along shipping routes. This mapping is the basis for the production of nautical charts. Finally, bathymetry data is also essential for planning marine installations and infrastructure such as wind turbines, coastal defences, oil platforms and pipelines. Research and academia organisations, governmental agencies, industry and citizens can benefit significantly from a wealth of high quality trustworthy and easily accessible bathymetric data.

Even though bathymetric data are still sparse in many regions, significant international efforts are pursued in order to assemble all the data collected by various actors and make these available to the public. EMODnet Bathymetry is the major effort undertaken by Europe on this challenge.

A single-access point to bathymetric products and data

Launched in 2011, the EMODnet bathymetry portal is an international reference point for bathymetric data and products. The most important product is the EMODnet Digital Terrain Model (DTM), last update in October 2016. The EMODnet DTM is a multilayer bathymetric product for Europe’s sea basins. Over the years many new surveys and composite DTMs have been gathered and included and today the DTM is based upon more than 7700 bathymetric survey data sets and composite DTMs that have been gathered from 31 data providers from 18 European countries.

The resolution of the DTM is a grid with 1/8 * 1/8 arc minutes (circa 230 metres). In addition, there is a layer showing high-resolution bathymetry for selected coastal waters in Europe to test the concept of a multi-resolution product. Altogether the EMODnet DTM contains over one billion points which are divided over 16 tiles which can be downloaded freely in various formats through the Bathymetry Viewing and Download service.

EMODnet Bathymetry at work: improving storm surge modelling in UK 

The Met Office and National Oceanography Centre are jointly developing a new storm surge forecast model for the UK. The new system uses NEMO as the underlying ocean model. In order to correctly forecast storm surge it is vital that the model's tidal solution is accurate, which in turn requires an accurate bathymetry. As part of the setup, a number of different bathymetry products were tested, and the results compared with observations from tide gauges around the UK. Using EMODnet bathymetry led to an overall improvement in the model tide solution compared with the previously used bathymetry data.  

Satellites, citizen and clouds boosting the EMODnet bathymetry portal

EMODnet bathymetry portal will adopt innovative technological approaches for data collection: satellite derived bathymetry and crowdsourced bathymetry. Satellite derived bathymetry (SDB) is a relatively new technique in hydrography for the development of bathymetric maps from shallow waters and coastal regions. The biggest advantage is that it can cover a large area against relatively low investment in time and resources. Another interesting novelty is bathymetry data crowdsourcing. This is becoming a real trend among yacht owners and sailing enthusiasts who are eager to collect and provide data. EMODnet intends to exploit these new trends to fill the existing gaps of in situ observations.  

Finally, EMODnet will move from a desktop tool to a collaborative cloud based environment. This will make Digital Terrain Models more cost-efficient and easier to access.

Contributing to the EMODnet bathymetry portal has become even easier: use the Ingestion portal!

To further speed up the bathymetry data collection process, a new EMODnet service has been recently released: the EMODnet Data Ingestion portal ( Submit your bathymetry data through this portal: it is quicker and a help desk is always available to support you.

More information here