European Directory of the Initial Ocean-observing System

Regional Center for Central and Western Mediterranean Sea 

EDIOS Objectives:

The main aim of the proposed project is to build a meta-database (computerised Directory) that includes information on all European ocean-observing sites/devices in routine and repeated operation (to be continuously updated) and to use this Directory to define the Initial European Ocean-observing System. There are several objectives related to different tasks:

  • Gather information on all European ocean-observing sites/devices (stations, sections, repeated samples, buoys, platforms, etc.) currently in use in the Baltic, NE Atlantic including the NW European Shelf, and Mediterranean Sea, their geographical location, technical characteristics and frequency of observation, and transfer this information into a serchable database (Directory).

  • Define the Initial Global Ocean Observing System by classification of ocean observing sites/devices in use.

  • Create a visual user interface (with user involvement) to facilitate accessibility of the Directory to all kinds of potential users.

The proposed Thematic Network will collect the scattered information on ocean-observing sites/devices (metadata only), harmonise it and combine it in a searchable European directory of operational ocean-observing sites/devices currently in use. EDIOS will be placed on the Internet and continuously updated.

This information will include, for example:

  • Technical specifications of the data collection methods (instruments, sensors, ships, nets, etc.)

  • Geographic co-ordinates

  • Specifications of the kind of measurements taken as well as of their spatio-temporal characteristics (but not the observational values). Information on sites sampling biological and biochemical data can be included without the special considerations necessary for the storage of actual records of this kind. Links to databases/archives containing the actual records will be provided.

  • Approximate accuracy of measurements

  • Present applications of the sampled data including derived products

  • Responsible agency/institute for each instrument or sensor

  • Links to data-holding agencies and institutes

Such a directory is a prerequisite for the full implementation of a co-ordinated European operational oceanographic strategy (EuroGOOS). It will provide the means to detect gaps and, in some cases, duplicate efforts in the current observation systems. It will enable rapid combination and co-ordination of national ocean-observing stations to improve monitoring and modelling around European seas, and to plan investments to develop and refine observations. EDIOS will permit for the first time an analysis of the continuously available data for operational models in Europe, and hence the ability to optimise the deployment of instruments, and the design of sampling strategy. This will lead to a better exploitation of the data generated by operational oceanography as well as of the derived products.

Not all the ocean-observing sites/devices contained in the directory will fulfil the requirements of an operational oceanographic system. Some might not be in use on a regular and long-term basis, others might not provide data with a certain temporal or spatial resolution or a minimum of accuracy required by certain models, and others might not be necessary because of their geographic location (e.g. “saturated” area). Therefore, objective 2 (i.e. the classification of compiled stations, sections, and platforms according to standards precisely defined by the project team in the course of the proposed action) will have immediate value to the European Ocean-observing System. Those ocean-observing sites/devices that meet minimum standards with regard to their geographic distribution and their reliability, frequency, and processing of the data sampled will be classified for inclusion in EuroGOOS regional models.

Easy access to EDIOS is guaranteed through its placement on the Internet and through a visual user interface that will allow users from various backgrounds to extract the information they need, with or without experience of handling complex metadata bases. Such accessibility will ensure that the use of EDIOS is not just confined to operational oceanographic centres and agencies. Students, scientists and entrepreneurs from all sectors will be able to locate types of ocean-observing sites/devices in Europe and their owners along with information on observing characteristics, such as spatial and temporal patterns of measurements, variables observed and precision of the measurements.

EDIOS_use1.gif (10255 bytes)

Figure 1: Different components or sectors in Operational Oceanography where information from EDIOS will directly influence decisions, and increase efficiency.

The benefits of EDIOS for European operational oceanography will be obvious in all components that make up the operational system, ranging from instrument manufacturers, design and implementation of the ocean-observing systems, and modelling to value added processing and customer needs (see Figure 1). The Directory will find its own users in addition to international programmes such as IOC/GOOS, EuroGOOS, WMO, etc. These will be scientists and other personnel of oceanographic research institutes and agencies, environmental and resource management agencies, meteorological offices, etc., plus SMEs operating in the marine sector. EDIOS will help marine resource users in general to find the sources generating data relevant to their applications. In addition, a compendium of European ocean-observing sites/devices will facilitate collaborative scientific uses of data generated by operational oceanography and thus reduce redundant or duplicate data sampling. The resulting cost savings might well have the effect of attracting more investigators to study the seas and therefore add to our overall understanding of ocean processes. The classification of measuring systems in EDIOS will set European standards required for a European Ocean-observing System. These standards will deal with the formats, scales, units, geographic distribution, type and detail of information on ocean-observing sites/devices stored by national and regional institutions. They will most likely incite manufacturers and owners of ocean-observing devices to improve their systems.

With EDIOS, an analysis of the continuously available data for operational models in Europe will be possible for the first time. The Thematic Network will collect the scattered information on ocean-observing systems, harmonise it and combine it in a European directory of operational ocean-observing sites/devices currently in use (including Black Sea). The set-up of EDIOS will follow that of existing international metadata bases, such as SeaNet and EDMED, as closely as possible. As argued above, such a directory is a prerequisite for the full implementation of EuroGOOS by enabling co-ordination of national ocean-observing stations to improve monitoring and modelling around European seas. EDIOS will, of course, include links to all existing European directories as well as to the data-holding agencies and institutes and thus contribute to networking and data sharing among European oceanographic organisations, agencies and institutes. Provision for a regular future update of EDIOS will be taken.

EDIOS will be a service to marine science, agencies, and enterprises which does not yet exist. It will be complementary to and supportive of meta-databases that contain archived records of projects, or which list scientific cruises, archival data centres, and catalogues of data centres and their holders (for the functional positioning of EDIOS in relation to other directories and (meta)databases see Figure 2).

So far, information on ocean-observing sites/devices including stations, repeat sections, moored buoys, remote imaging, etc. presently in use in European seas is scattered and not easily available. Many regional data bases contain material on certain types of ocean-observing sites/devices or concentrate on the variables measured and the institutions holding the data (for examples see below). National agencies and institutes usually hold lists of the ocean-observing sites/devices they regularly use but this information is not organised in a compatible way among different institutions, i.e. formats, scales, and units are often inconsistent as is the type and detail of information stored. Thus, a comprehensive inventory of ocean-observing sites/devices in Europe will be a new and very useful tool in operational oceanography and in oceanographic science.

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Figure 2. Functional types of Data bases: EDIOS will be a Meta-Data base on Ocean-observing Systems that networks with existing data bases and meta-data bases (links)

Over the past 10-20 years, several international databases on ocean scientific research data and meta-data have been created. For example, IOC/UNESCO has developed the Marine Environmental Data and Information (MEDI) referral system for cataloguing data sets. Initially a print-based directory, MEDI has recently been redeveloped as a PC-based application. The database structure for MEDI is based on the Global Change Master Directory (GCMD). The GCMD, developed by NASA, is a directory of data sets of relevance to global change (including ocean data sets). In addition, a European Directory of Marine Environmental Data (EDMED) has been developed by BODC (with EU/MAST funding) and Australia has developed their 'Blue Pages' directory. EDMED is currently being updated as part of the EU/EURONODIM (European Network for Oceanographic Data and Information Management) project. This project also aims to improve input to the archive of Cruise Summary Reports (formerly ROSCOP), and disseminates information through its Sea-Search website (www.sea-search.net).

In the field of marine data management, the EU/MODB (Mediterranean Ocean Data Base) initiative provided a comprehensive data set of temperature and salinity for the Mediterranean Sea. This work was further developed by the EU/MEDATLAS Project, which produced the presently most complete data set including a climatological Atlas of temperature and salinity for the Mediterranean region. The ongoing EU-MEDAR/MEDATLAS-II Project aims at advancing the aforementioned work by including chemical and biological parameters and by incorporating Black Sea data. Data and metadata bases for other regional European sea areas include BOOS (Baltic Ocean-observing System) that also assembled information on stations operated by Baltic Sea littoral states. For the North Sea, SeaNet (European Workshop on Fixed Monitoring Networks in the North Sea Region) offers comprehensive information on buoys and platforms. Other European efforts for the development of data bases for ocean data and metadata are linked with marine data and informational management activities carried out within the framework of large scale research projects for regional Seas, supported by the EU (OMEX, MTP, CANIGO, etc.).

With the exception of the BOOS and SeaNet metadata bases, all the above mentioned data and metadata bases are largely or solely based on oceanographic data sets collected during classical oceanographic cruises. However, ocean forecasting in Europe requires observational networks with real-time data acquisition capabilities and analysis systems, numerical models and data assimilation procedures. For this purpose, most European coastal countries maintain operational oceanographic monitoring programmes usually carried out by national agencies and institutes or scientific research groups. These programmes, however, usually just operate within the national boundaries of each country and are only rarely co-ordinated with each other; they often are incompatible even between agencies in one country. Typically, there are 10 to 15 different agencies in a country making operational observations, a number that can be even higher if counting all those that perform on a more local level. In addition to national programmes, operational marine data are also collected within the framework of International Projects (e.g. MFSPP, the “Mediterranean Forecasting System” Pilot Project).

In conclusion, EDIOS represents a much-needed tool in operational oceanography and will fill a gap in the presently available European oceanographic metadata bases. EDIOS will help EuroGOOS to build a European ocean-observing system by providing a comprehensive European catalogue of instruments and sensors in continuous use. In addition, its visual user interface will give easy access to the information contained in EDIOS to everybody interested and thus ensure the usefulness of EDIOS to all oceanographic sectors, commercial and non-commercial.


2002, Istituto Nazionale di Oceanografia e di Geofisica Sperimentale,
Department of Oceanology and Environmental Geophysics


Last Modified: October 11, 2002
Maintained by: Alessandra Giorgetti