Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180
WEDNESDAY 16 MAY 2007
Q180 Chris Mole: That is 34 ongoing.
I think you hinted earlier there might be some missing. What else
should you be monitoring on a long-term basis?
Dr Horwood: If you look at the
review that UKMMAS did, they reckon to fulfil the aspirations
of that UK monitoring strategy. They would be looking for an extra
£22 million a year and they have identified those areas where
they would seek to do more, possibly adding to that number.
Q181 Chris Mole: Briefly, could you?
Dr Horwood: I do feel that we
do not know enough about the basic state of marine biodiversity
and, more importantly, how that is responding to natural variation.
The sea is used to seeing very large changes, both cyclic shifts
and variability, and until we have that baseline in it will be
very difficult to detect changes that we want to attribute to
Q182 Chris Mole: Dr Bell?
Dr Bell: One aspect of monitoring,
which I agree fully with what Joe has just said, one other aspect
which has not been mentioned so far is satellite monitoring and
the UK contribution to that, which could be significantly stronger
than it is.
Q183 Chris Mole: Who should be leading
the demand for that?
Dr Bell: Defra have taken on the
responsibility for global monitoring for environments and security.
Q184 Chris Mole: GMES.
Dr Bell: GMES, and so that is
certainly one of the departments that has taken on responsibility.
But there are other departments involved across British National
Space Centre that would have some responsibility.
Q185 Chris Mole: We have talked about
some of the sharing issues. Some of the data your produce is commercially
consumed but beyond that how can the Met Office and UKHO share
your scientific data with the wider research community and are
there any barriers to preventing people having access to that
Dr Hensley: I think from our perspective,
other than the barriers which would be where we hold third party
data, which we are not at liberty to release from international
partners, or if there are defence constraints, for reasons which
will be self-evident, there are not the barriers for us releasing
data as long as it is consistent with our trading fund status.
Q186 Chris Mole: Have you had a dialogue
with the research community about whether there is anything that
they think they might take from you that they are not currently
Dr Hensley: We have spoken over
some time about some issues, such as observations of the marine
mammals and so on and so forth, and we have some work in progressand
I will have to clarify thatwith St. Andrew's University
on that, where we have put in risk mitigation work for marine
mammals, for example; and on the physical side, as I say, we release
data out through BODC.
Q187 Chris Mole: Dr Bell?
Dr Bell: It is quite a complex
issue that you have raised about access to data and it is a very
important one because we rely on data being openly exchanged in
real time to do our monitoring and forecasting, so it is actually
something that we do want to see progress. For research and development
and for making our data available for research and development
purposes we would seek to make that data available at cost basis.
For other government departments' use our policy is that the data
that is produced for our public task should be available to other
government departments for their public task, again at an at cost
basis. I think those are the principles but you have to bear in
mind that there are also issues of funding in making data available;
there is also a certain amount of history that things are organised
in certain ways and it takes time to move towards more modern
methods for data exchange. As Rob has mentioned, there are security
issues as well. One of the security issues, for example, from
the Met Office's point of view, is that we have to be very careful
not to open up our system to hackers because if our system goes
down it has very serious repercussions for the country. And that
does constrain the way in which we can make data available to
others. So there are constraints, apart from the principles which
have become clearer recently.
Q188 Chris Mole: Dr Bell, how does
the Met Office work with academic institutions in developing forecasting
models? I am very much aware that those models have become increasingly
complex and need bigger and bigger super computers to cope with
Dr Bell: Yes.
Q189 Chris Mole: As the understanding
about the interface between the sea and the sky to those models
becomes increasingly important do we have the funding in place
to ensure that we have the computing power to crunch those models
for the next generation of modelling and forecasting?
Dr Bell: You have asked two questions.
Q190 Chris Mole: I am sorry; yes,
Dr Bell: It is very important
to us to take the research that is done in institutions like Proudman
Oceanographic Laboratory and Plymouth Marine Laboratory and to
pull those through into our system. So, for example, there is
an ecosystem model which was developed by Plymouth, which we brought
into our operational systems this year and there are other examples
of that, and this is why this National Centre for Ocean forecasting
was set up, to really recognise that there has been this collaboration
going on over the last ten years, and to formalise it and to help
to strengthen it. To come on to your other question about whether
the computing resources are available, the computing resources
to which we have access, to which the Met Office has access are
not as large as the resources that are available in some other
countries, for example the USA, Japan and, in our case, also France.
So that is an issue; that is really quite an important issue.
Q191 Chris Mole: Who is addressing
Dr Bell: That issue is certainly
being addressed by the Hadley Centre in discussions with Defra
and MOD. There are also discussions with NERC as to whether we
can share computer resources in the future and get better computer
Q192 Chairman: That should be an
issue for us really.
Dr Bell: Yes, I think that is
an important issue.
Q193 Graham Stringer: Do you ever
worry that as your computers get bigger and your models get more
sophisticated that you are drawing more and more resources into
modelling that actually does reflect as accurately as it could
do what is going to happen in 10 years' time, but everybody is
very happy with the model because the model is self-consistent?
Is that question clear?
Dr Bell: Yes, I think I see what
you are driving at. It would be very serious if that were the
case but a lot of the science that is done at the Met Office is
on the validation of the models and particularly for climate change
because it is like a one-shot problem, that you make predictions,
say, for 50 years ahead and you do not know until 50 years' time
whether they are going to be right. So this issue of validation
of the models and ensuring that the science is adequately captured
is really at the heart of what we do. One of the ways in which
we try to tackle that is that we do forecasting on an every day
basis which does test the models, at least in short range, every
day. Actually a lot of the errors in the climate models do show
up on these sorts of short timescales so that testing of the models
is very relevant and the Met Office does seek to work together
with the NERC partners because we recognise that we do not have
the funding on our own to do all of the necessary validation,
and validation and understanding of the models is very expensive.
Chairman: Linda Gilroy.
Q194 Linda Gilroy: These are the
concluding questions of the session on marine policy and a few
questions to Dr Horwood before turning to the other two. What
discussions has Cefas had with Defra regarding the Marine Bill
White Paper and how do you expect Cefas to be affected by the
proposed Marine Management Organisation?
Dr Horwood: I have a few words
on this. We would not comment on our Minister's policy but from
our involvement in the activities we are pleased with the Bill.
We do see that it seeks to make more coherent the current fragmented
management of marine activities at a time when coastal pressures
are high and increasing and there is real competition for space.
We think the key roles of marine planning, licensing, nature conservation
and inshore fisheries are suitably and well aligned; the marine
conservation zones will be a very useful new tool. The conclusion
was that Cefas should not be a part of the MMO because we would
be too big a tail wagging the dog but we do see in whatever form
it takes that we would expect to have a very strong relationship
with the MMO. At the same time it is very healthy that science
is separated from policy and is transparent, so if we were in
the MMO or out of the MMO I think people would clearly want to
see a separation between a report, advice and subsequent action
by the MMO. We are still in discussions about whether particular
licensing teams should move from Cefas to an MMO.
Q195 Linda Gilroy: So licensing in
relation to fisheries, in relation to ...
Dr Horwood: No licensing very
much in relation to construction and dumping and dredging activities
under FEPA, the Food and Environmental Protection Act, and the
Coastal Protection Act.
Q196 Linda Gilroy: Presumably that
is the response you would be making to the Marine Bill consultation,
which closes in early June?
Dr Horwood: As part of Defra we
have not gone through the consultation, we are speaking to them
Q197 Linda Gilroy: I think you have
given us some indication towards how you would see Cefas' statutory
functions changing in response to changing pressures on the UK
marine environment, but do you want to say a few more words about
Dr Horwood: I think the key thing
is the massive changes that are happening at the European level.
Previously OSPAR Commission on the marine environment was the
big organisation that we, the UK, was serving and looking after.
Now we see DG Environment becoming much more interested. We have
had the Water Framework Directive come in; the Marine Strategy
Directive is now at a pretty advanced stage; we have the Marine
Green Paper from the Commission. There will be a much greater
European involvement in marine activities, so I guess we will
still be serving this core activity but there will be a much greater
European dimension to it.
Q198 Linda Gilroy: And the Cefas
research in support of policy proposals in the Marine Bill White
Paper, such as the Marine Protected Areas, do you see Cefas research
and experience thus far feeding into that; and, if so, how does
that fit with the position you stated just now, that it should
remain outside of the Marine Management Organisation? Would that
be an activity that would transfer in?
Dr Horwood: I am not sure how
some of these things will pan out but at some point somebody has
to decide that area X should go aheadprobably Ministersand
it may be that the MMO then has the job of implementing it. But
there will be a body of advice going in to the people who make
the decision in the first stage, which I guess would probably
not only come from us but a larger range of views would go into
any evaluation of a protected areasome scientific, some
economic. We have had a strong engagement with advising on Marine
Protected Areas over the last several decades, both for fisheries
purposes and, for instance, in the marine Natura sites and in
protecting specific sensitive habitats.
Q199 Linda Gilroy: Dr Hensley, how
does UKHO support evidence-based policy making? For example, what
assistance are you giving to Defra to support their marine policy
Dr Hensley: We have had input
to Defra; we consult; they consulted with us on the Marine Bill.
We are a centre of expertise for hydrographic/bathymetric data,
so therefore our role would be to provide the definitive picture
and what the definitive of the UK shelf would be. We are currently
piloting what a data assessment centre underpinning this would
be. It was a model that was proposed some time ago and we are
now working through the implementation to see how it stands up.
We have input into the Data Standards, for example, so we have
been providing underpinning information on the quality of seabed
and its structure.
Q200 Linda Gilroy: Might that make
the data that you collect and the potential for collecting data
more widely known to the marine science community?
Dr Hensley: We do not collect
data, but we database, analyse and so on and so forth. The data
that we have is either available through our website, and for
non-commercial academic use it is free; or goes in a GIS framework
way through Sea Zone Hyperspatial, so the data is available to
the academic community certainly.
Chairman: I am going to have to finish
there. I am sorry, we have run over as well, but Dr Horwood, Dr
Hensley and Dr Bell thank you very much indeed for giving your
evidence before us this morning.