Oceanographic models for the Scotia Sea

Developing high-resolution hydrodynamic models of the shelf regions around South Georgia and the South Orkney Islands

Start date
1 July, 2015
End date
30 June, 2017

This project aims to develop two regional models that will be used to examine the detailed oceanography of the South Georgia and South Orkney Islands shelves and surrounding regions. The models will provide a numerical basis for detailed examination of the physical controls on the island ecosystems.


The ecosystems associated with the ocean shelves around South Georgia and the South Orkney Islands support very large colonies of seabirds and seals. They also support substantial fisheries and are central to UK interests in the Southern Ocean. Many of the key processes that determine the operation of ecosystems in these island regions operate over small scales of <10 km.

To examine these small-scale processes, this project is developing high resolution (~2.5 km) ocean models for the South Georgia and South Orkney Islands shelf regions. The underlying model system is NEMO (Nucleus for European Modelling of the Ocean: http://www.nemo-ocean.eu/), which has been widely adopted by the European scientific community for a range of modelling studies from regional to global scales. NEMO is a highly versatile modelling system, and includes a range of options for model parameterisation that enables good representation of regions characterised by complex bathymetry, precipitous shelf-edges and sea ice.

The models will be used to simulate a 20-year period, 1992-2012, with subsequent analysis of seasonal, inter-annual and longer-term variability. The models will provide the basis for detailed analyses of the controls on the distribution and abundance of key species (including krill and fish) and their interactions with dependent predators. The models will also provide a quantitative framework for developing science based spatial management procedures. The models will be linked to wider UK modelling efforts to allow examination of the impacts of climate driven change in Southern Ocean ecosystems.

Phil Trathan

Predators in Ecosystems/WPM

Ecosystems team

Emma Young

Ocean & Biophysical Modeller

Polar Oceans team