André Lebeau assesses the current situation with regard to one of the major issues connected with the study of climate change today - global ocean forecasting, in which one of the key projects, Mercator Océan, is French.
After presenting the first phase necessary in order to predict what is happening to the oceans (observation by satellite and in situ), the author highlights the critical importance of the second phase, which involves digital modelling of the oceans. The advances made in this area are closely linked to the story of Mercator, a project begun in France in 1995 which has become one of the main elements in the worldwide experimental programme of full-scale operational oceanography.
He goes on to describe the scientific aims of the project and the participating institutions, and then discusses the many issues related to digital modelling of the Earth's oceans, ranging from observing the climate to ensuring the safety of people and equipment, as well as research and commercial applications. Finally, André Lebeau argues that it is extremely important, now that the experimental phase of this huge project is nearing completion (having laid the technical foundations), to put in place a truly operational structure capable of integrating ocean modelling and provision of services; moreover, in attempting to do so, it would be a great pity not to benefit from the experience and the successes of Mercator in a broader European context.