Tema havsmiljö

Marine Environmental Monitoring

from sampling to knowledge

Marine environmental monitoring at SMHI

What is SMHI doing in marine environmental monitoring?

Our oceans and coasts are free resources for recreation and transport. A relationship that most take for granted. Yet, the marine environment is a finite resource and consumption has to be in balance with the ability of the sea to recover. This decade is the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) where Sweden and SMHI plays an important role.

SMHI, the National Oceanographic Data Centre of Sweden

Since 2017 we are the National Oceanographic Data Centre (NODC) appointed by UNESCOs Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission/International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange. As Sweden's National Oceanographic Data Centre we collect, quality control, process, summarize and archive data generated in national marine environmental monitoring and make it available for an international audience.

Sampling and data quality

Accredited sampling and analyses are performed both shipboard and in SMHIs laboratory in Gothenburg. We perform extensive monthly measurements of, for example, salinity, nutrients, plankton and oxygen both in the Baltic Sea and in the Skagerrak and Kattegat seas. In addition, SMHI has a number of buoys that measure waves, currents, temperature and chlorophyll. Along the coastline SMHI employs a network of sea level measurement stations (tide gauge) within Sweden’s warning system for high- and low sea level conditions. SMHI also conducts satellite monitoring of algal blooms, ice situations and sea surface temperatures.

To produce the best possible quality and access to data, knowledge and competence, SMHI have strong national and international cooperation with other agencies. SMHI has a particularly well-established cooperation within the European Union (EU).

Current data, prognosis and scenarios

A sustainable environment and climate development is the foundation for a healthy consumption of the ocean and its resources. Another foundation is for the society to plan how marine resources should be used. To create a society that does not affect the water environment negatively is a very urgent challenge. To recreate a good environmental status in coastal areas and the ocean will provide the society with economic profit such as sustainable tourism, secure supply of foods, secure and less stress on the environment from transport and the possibility to live close to the coast to a larger degree.

SMHI provides the general public, other agencies, researchers and international consortia with data, prognoses, scenarios and current information about ocean and coast. This is often done in conjunction with other authorities such as the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management and the Environmental Protection Agency, Swedish Coast Guard and the Swedish Maritime Administration.

Our unique ocean

Coasts and sea does not know any borders. A package of water could, in principle, circulate the Baltic Sea for approximately 25 years and during this time become affected by the water from many different countries before it eventually leaves the Baltic Sea. The drainage area of the Baltic Sea is approximately 4 times larger than the ocean itself, which makes terrestrial effects the single most important component where counter measures should be planned and focused. It is therefore extremely important that the countries coordinate their counter measures to make cost-effective plans.

The water exchange between the Baltic Sea and the Skagerrak and Kattegat seas is a fundamental factor that affects the condition of the Baltic Sea, while it characterizes the Baltic Sea as a unique area with the largest brackish water system in the world. It is neither ocean nor lake but a mix of both with a special biological diversity consisting of few species with large populations. The Kattegat and Skagerrak seas are a part of the North Sea but are in turn affected by the outflow of Baltic Sea water. The Baltic Sea and the Skagerrak and Kattegat seas are therefore an intricately integrated water system.

The environmental goals for ocean and coast require that data and basis of decision making not only concerns the condition but also information about the loading from land and air. The responsibilities for data therefore concern a wide spectrum of tasks, tools and foundational data that often comes from SMHIs other management areas; meteorology and hydrology.

SMHIs marine environmental monitoring

A large part of Sweden’s marine environmental monitoring are conducted by SMHI in collaboration with the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, County Boards and Water Management Associations. The operations are quality assured and accredited according to SWEDAC where analyses are done shipboard and in SMHIs laboratory. The measurements are part of the Swedish contribution to the marine environmental conventions HELCOM and OSPAR, as well as for use in Swedish and international research, municipalities and county boards.

SMHI also run automatic measurements systems where the most important task is to deliver data in near real-time. Data are used to improve the accuracy of the prognoses and provide basic information on climate and environment. Sea level measurement stations along the coast, buoys at sea, continuous ship measurements underway and satellite data are all operations that SMHI run and develop. Collaboration with the Swedish Maritime Administration is important to reach cost-effective solutions between authorities and to get good coverage in oceanographic observations. Similar collaborations in terms of data exchange with authorities in other countries are possible through Baltic Operational Oceanographic System (BOOS), North-West Shelf Operational Oceanographic System (NOOS).

How is the information used?

Data collection is an integrated part of SMHIs responsibilities. Models are used to calculate cost-effective counter measures. Marine environmental data are used to improve the modeling tools accuracy and follow-up for the effect of completed measures.

With these data, SMHI produces information for experts and the public that includes yearly and monthly reports on the current status of the seas, as well as indicators for critical parameters as a measurement on the eutrophication of the seas.

In conjunction with the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, SMHI provides marine environmental data for users. Data can be retrieved from a web service and is therefore available at all times. SMHIs policy for data dictates that all data are freely available for all. This is a service in constant development with new technology and new datasets.

Prognoses and warnings

The marine environmental work at SMHI also concerns providing information in near real-time and in the form of prognoses, about the spread and turnover of discharges to water.

The marine environmental work at SMHI also concerns warning services for high and low sea levels and information about waves and large blooms of algae. To aid these systems SMHI use both observations and prognoses.

Tracking oil spills

Our most advanced service is where oil spills in the ocean or coastal areas can be tracked based on winds and currents. Users can via the web start prognoses of an oil leak and on their local screen get prognoses where the oil may end up. The service is developed in a close collaboration with the Swedish Coast Guard and Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency. The web based service is called SeaTrack Web (STW) and is a contribution from Sweden to HELCOMs environmental work to fight oil spills at sea and can be used by all member countries.

Prognosis tools

It is becoming increasingly important to integrate measurement data with modelling tools to accomplish the best possible result. The models provide a geographical full coverage of information over time while measurement data integrated into the model calculations shows the accuracy in the results. To understand and show accuracy in environmental scenarios and prognoses will be key elements for how the management of ocean and coasts can be optimized.

Within SMHIs research we develop calculation tools for the needs of the authority itself and for our society. A central area is to provide models that can both handle climate and marine environmental scenarios, since a changed climate can affect the counter measure plans for a better marine environment. Climate and environment are therefore intertwined and interdependent in an integrated cycle of events. It is therefore also necessary to produce measures for the marine environment that are climate neutral. By this we mean that a changed climate has to be included in the calculations when the society determines what and how large counter measures should be done to improve the environment in the ocean and coasts. To produce the best possible quality in the model prognoses knowledge is also needed about critical processes for physical and biogeochemical cycles and to integrate observations in prognoses and scenarios.

What regulates the marine environmental work?

Coast and sea does not know any borders and the environmental work in Sweden are regulated by national as well as international guidelines and marine environmental conventions.

SMHIs role as an agency

SMHI have responsibilities for meteorology, hydrology and oceanography, which means that SMHI is a management agency for oceanographic questions and sustains a oceanographic service. To meet these goals over time and at the same time adapt the operations after current challenges SMHI is committed to the marine environmental work within EU and not least to the marine conventions HELCOM and OSPAR. The operation is also regulated by the national environmental goals determined by the Swedish government and by EU:s water directive and marine strategy directive.

The management includes collection of data for the condition of the seas around Sweden, to issue warnings and aid society with information and basis for decision-making. To provide the best possible quality and access to data, knowledge an competence, SMHI collaborates with other agencies both nationally and internationally. Especially important is the collaboration within the EU since neighboring countries are regulated by the same laws as Sweden. Almost all countries around the Kattegat and Skagerrak seas and the Baltic Sea is part of the EU.

The ocean proposition

In March 2009 the government presented a proposition where SMHI were appointed as national authority responsible for coordination on how data relevant for the marine environments should be archived and made available.

The marine environmental directive (Marine Strategy Directive)

In the summer of 2008 the European parliament and EU council framework directive presented a marine strategy. The directive is driving for the marine environmental work in Sweden. The purpose is to reach good environmental status through ecosystem based management. SMHI is contributing with indicators, assessment of environmental status and its criteria, development of environmental monitoring programs, preparation for and assessment of counter measure programs, as well as updating and informing the public and end users.

Baltic Sea Action Plan

In the fall of 2007 the environmental ministers from all countries around the Baltic Sea agreed on a action plan to reduce the loads of contaminants in the sea. The Baltic Sea action plan have concrete measures to improve, preserve and protect the marine environment both in the Baltic Sea and the Kattegat and Skagerrak seas. The four most important goals concerns eutrophication, harmful substances, biodiversity and maritime activities. Within SMHI we strive to participate in the Baltic Sea Action Plan to fulfill Sweden’s contributing.