On Thursday November 10th, Martin Visbeck (GEOMAR) gave a virtual talk about “How digital twins of the ocean can transform science and the world” at the COP27 Ocean Pavilion. Find a recording of the talk below.

Martin Visbeck talks about DITTO at the COP27 Ocean Pavilion.

Digital Twins at the Ocean Best Practices Workshop VI (Online)

Currently, a major challenge remains in the data interoperability and digital ecosystem needs of Digital Twins. Global environmental data must be made readily available on an easy access, user-friendly platform. Moreover, the plentiful observational and modeling environmental data is currently collected in a disparate patchwork of national and international projects. International digital standards need to be defined and applied, harmonizing the data sets and making them applicable to global Digital Twin applications.In order to address this challenge, Martin Visbeck (GEOMAR) and Ute Brönner (SINTEF) organized two sessions on “Interoperable Data Systems for Digital Twins of the Ocean” during the Ocean Best Practices Workshop VI on October 17th and 18th.

A range of international speakers from varying sectors (government, IT private sector, research) presented their work on different aspects (technical, governance, application) of data interoperability for Digital Twins.

A summary of the individual presentations can be found below.

“GIS, a Foundational Building Block of a Digital Twin of the Ocean” by Marten Hogeweg (Esri)

Esri is the global leader in Geographic Information System (GIS) technology. It aims to use GIS technology to create and integrate Digital Twins. Esri has created Digital Twins for a range of applications: facilities management, smart cities, port management, etc. The Digital Twins have so far focused mostly on terrestrial applications, and the company is now looking into creating a Digital Twin of the Ocean. The marine exploration industry has been identified as potential client, for example the monitoring of underwater pipelines. This would require marine sonar and rata data, which could also be readily used in a Digital Twin of the Ocean.

Esri thinks of Digital Twins as a Geodesign Process: you assess the current situation through observations, decide which process models and suitability models to use, apply different ‘what if’ scenarios and evaluate the resultant impacts. Policy decisions can be made accordingly. The goal is multi-objective optimization, resulting in as many positive impacts as possible.

Esri applies a Geodesign Process for its Digital Twins. Image by Marten Hogeweg.

Data interoperability begins with the multi-dimensionality of Digital Twins. Whilst 3D models are surely necessary for some data sets (e.g. thermohaline circulation), sometimes ‘only’ 1D data is needed (e.g. temperature time-series). Thus, the data fed into Digital Twins must be stored in a manner that easily allows the extraction of different dimensions.

Moreover, Digital Twins cover multiple time horizons (current, short-term simulations and future, long-term simulations) and data sources: observational, in-situ, remote, modeling, etc. This is a lot of data, inviting the question of how all this data will be made available. Currently, environmental data exists in individual catalogs distributed globally: e.g. national governments, ocean observing systems from research institutes etc. In order to access this data as a user, you must first know about the existence of these catalogues. Over the years, the development of federated catalogues has attempted to increase the accessibility to individual data sets: catalogues can cross-register amongst themselves, such that users are made aware of different catalogues. Whilst this connects individual catalogues, it still requires considerable manual efforts of the end-user to find the data. Esri thus promotes federated GIS: data is made readily available in a joint catalogue environment, e.g. data spaces, data mesh, data fabric etc.

A Digital Twin of the Ocean requires interoperable data catalogues. Image by Marten Hogeweg.

ArcGIS (Open Geographic Information System) supports the data interoperability needed for Digital Twins; it is open data, open source, open science and has open standards. Thus, ArcGIS supports a DITTO through:

(1) Observing System & Data Spaces

(2) Interaction & Provisioning

(3) Data Analytics & Prediction Engine

(4) Outreach, Share & Collaboration.

“BioDT: Digital Twins for Nature & Interoperability” by Jeroen Broekhuijsen (TNO)

BioDT is an EU project that started in June 2022. The goal of BioDt is to support the research infrastructure for biodiversity by producing a first prototype digital twin. The twin intends to drive both science and use cases, and connect different EU twins & initiatives (ECMWF, European Open Science Cloud etc.). Four research institutes are part of the BioDT Consortium (DISSCO, GBIF LifeWatch & eLTER) that are supporting the research infrastructure for biodiversity. Different European universities connected to these research infrastructures are doing the actual biological/ecological work.

Traditional digital twins used in the industrial sector have 4 main steps: product design, value chain, production process and asset management. This design process may be applied to environmental digital twins, for example in the forestry sector:

  • Product design: design strategies to manage forests
  • Value Chain: use forests to produce wood
  • Production process: harvesting wood for use
  • Asset management: manage forests
4 main steps of designing traditional Digital Twins for the industrial/manufacturing sector. May be applied to nature (e.g. forestry sector), but still focuses on human-driven activities. Image by Jeroen Broekhuijsen.

However, this is a very anthropogenic-centered design process, as the actives are all human-driven. Rather than manage our interaction with nature, natural digital twins must have a science-driven approach.

In the science-centered design process of Digital Twins, nature is captured through monitoring, observational or citizen science approaches. This data then enters research infrastructures and gives scientists new ideas how we can understand nature. This knowledge is then translated into models (e.g. species model, climate models). Next, we must assess whether what we captured digitally about nature accurately describes what we observe. In a next step, we can include how humans impact nature, and use the models to predict how anthropogenic intervention affects nature. Contrary to the traditional design process of industrial Digital Twins, this approach is nature-first.

The nature-focused design process of Digital Twins. Image by Jeroen Broekhuijsen.

Thus, the steps of the BioDT Twin Prototype are:

  1. Capturing Nature
  2. Understanding & modeling nature
  3. Affecting nature

When it comes to interoperability across the EU, the EOSC has established a framework describing different aspects (legal, semantic, organizational and technical) and levels (technical, syntactic, semantic, conceptual, experiential) of operability.

Building on this, there are many different options for interoperability in BioDT: data interoperability, workflow interoperability, application interoperability etc. We need this interoperability to find, exchange, query and assess the quality of this data. Whilst best practice examples of interoperability for Digital Twins do not exist yet, we can use success stories from the energy or manufacturing sector as guidelines.

“An Information Management Framework for Environmental (IMFe) Digital Twins” by Justin Buck (NOC)

The NOC developed a digital twin in the scope of an Information Management Framework (IMFe) roadmap project between October 2021 and March 2022. Specific goals included:

  1. Establishing a shared vision;
  2. Developing the conceptual framework;
  3. Agreeing on and implementing, digital commons;
  4. Delivering demonstrators (pilot DTs) with tangible benefits;
  5. Developing DT components

The roadmap was created with a two-way approach: a top-down approach, starting from the theory, and a bottom-up approach, using the existing landscape (governance, models, use cases). These were combined to create the IMFe Model.

IMFe Methodology: combining top-down & bottom-up approaches. Image by NOC.

At the bottom-up scale, the project examined existing digital twins across scales (local, national, regional and global), across disciplines (ocean, terrestrial, etc.) and across capabilities (predictive modeling, machine learning etc.). From this, three use cases were chosen to represent the range of IMFe requirements: 3DT, a digital twin run by the Met Office that delivers dispersion model for air pollution in cities; the Land Insight digital twin run by the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, which models carbon and water in soil moisture, for flood monitoring and IPCC Assessments; and the Antarctic Digital Twin by the British Antarctic Survey, which optimizes ship navigation to minimize fuel consumption.

The top-down approach examined the existing theory and standards to develop a conceptual framework for the management, governance, security & support of the IMFe. Aspects considered included asset commons for data, models, methods and workflows, and underlying cloud native services. This was based on the theory developed for the Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) Information Management Framework, and adapted for the environmental framework.

The Outcome: an IMFe Roadmap. The Roadmap is readily available here.

A new project, running from October 2022 to November 2023, is piloting the IMFe. It is designing and building an IMFe for the use case of Haig Fras Seabed Imagery. A key element of this pilot project is stakeholder engagement and communities of practice; until January the project must recommend existing communities of practice. The planned outcomes are an IMFe Framework, IMFe Services, as well as a demonstrator Haig Fras Digital Twin. This use case was chosen because ocean protection is a policy priority and protection of 30% of the ocean by 2030 a commitment of the UK G7 Presidency. Seabed Imagery is a non-destructive method that can be used to assess and monitor Marine Protected Areas; a Haig Fras Digital Twin can create a continuous, timely assessment of seabeds.

The expected project outcomes are: continuation of the stakeholder community and outreach to relevant communities of practice. This includes updates to & publication of the theoretical IMFe framework (in about 5 months time); producing a first version of an asset register to enable a collaborative and coordinated development of environmental digital twins, and an exemplar Haig Fras marine imagery digital twin.

On November 24th, the NOC is organizing a workshop to improve the coordination between the development of digital twins of the ocean, observational networks and digital infrastructure.

“South Africa’s Marine Information Management System (MIMS)” by Marjolaine Krug (Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries & the Environment, Cape Town)

South Africa has established the Oceans and Coastal Information Management System (OCIMS) to improve ocean governance and protection, and to promote the growth of the blue economy. In the scope of this, Decision Support Tools were created through consultations between developers and stakeholders. For example, for fisheries & aquaculture, or marine spatial planning. Theses Decision Support Tools are developed with Technical Advisory Groups. Currently, OCIMS serves mainly government institutes, but also the industry and NGOs. For technical support, there is a dedicated data center and IT infrastructure called the Marine Information Management System (MIMS). MIMS was implemented by the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) in collaboration with the Department of Forestry, Fisheries & the Environment (DFFE).

MIMS is an Open Archival Information System that stores and publishes marine datasets. The IT infrastructure belongs to and primarily serves the DFFE, but as the need and interest from other stakeholders grows, the IT infrastructure will be expanded. Over the next 5 years, the DFFE aims to establish a complete failover system. MIMS stores various kinds of data: geographic data, biological metadata and simple metadata. The data adheres to African as well as international data standards.

MIMS is built on a combination of TRUST & FAIR; transparency, responsibilty, accesibitly etc. The long-term preservation of data is ensured through Data Management Policies, for example adhering to international standards to maximize interoperability, limiting data embargo and persuading data holders to share data.

MIMS data management guiding principles. Image by Marjolaine Krug.

MIMS: Regional & International Links

MIMS does not work in isolation; there is a national node for the IODE of the IOC of UNESCO, and the program just received the IODE Associate Data Unit (ADU) status. Moreover, MIMS acts as the Repository for the Southern African Data Centre for Oceanography (SADCO) and hosts the IODE AfrOBIS – an Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS) that coordinates marine biological data management activities for the sub-Saharan African region. At a regional level, MIMS works with the Benguela Current Commission (BCC) and the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA).

In summary, MIMS serves as an exemplary open archive information system, following international standards of best practice of FAIR & TRUST data management principles. This includes common (meta)data structures, sharing protocols, use of standardized classifications & vocabularies as well as open data formats and standard interfaces.

“Planned Blue-Cloud 2026 activities towards Digital Twins of the Oceans” by Dick Schaap (MARIS)

An EMODnet study found that in Europe, 1.4 Billion Euros a year are spent on marine data acquisition (remote sensing & in-situ). This means that there is a highly engaged marine data management landscape (EuroGOOS, Copernicus, PANGAE etc.), operating at ca. 95% capabilities. A remarkable infrastructure underlies this landscape: there is a range of data collectors, then data aggregators (3 main power blocks in Europe: SeaDataNet, EMODnet, Copernicus), then come the intermediate users (people turning data into knowledge), and the end users.

Blue Cloud focuses on the data part. The project started as a federated project to combine data sets, analytical resources and computing resources: “to promote the sharing of data, processes and research findings in the marine domain by delivering a collaborative web-based environment that enables open science”.

There are 3 levels in the overarching concept of blue cloud: assimilating increasingly more data from the range of repositories, applying common standards (OGC, ISO) for (meta)data interoperability, and developing value-added services and applications, turning data into real information and making it ready for other users.

Blue Cloud works together with many leading E- and blue data infrastructures.

There are 3 key products and services of blue cloud:

  1. Blue-Cloud Data & Discovery Access service: federating key European data management infrastructures;
  2. Blue-Cloud Virtual Research Environment: promoting Collaboration, Sharing, Reuse, & Reproducibility.
  3. Blue-Cloud Virtual Labs (5 in total), serving as Demonstrators: Marine Environmental Indicators, Aquaculture Monitor, Plankton Genomics, Fish a matter of scales, Zoo & Phytoplankton EOV products.
The Blue-Cloud Overarching Concept. Image by Dick Schaap.

The Blue Cloud Discovery & Access Service produces a common interface for the main European data management infrastructures, so users can easily find the data they need in a “one-stop-shop” approach, rather than having to access a number of different data catalogues. This is also beneficial for the producers of blue data: they have a wider outreach to potential users, they are informed about data requests and they streamline their data with international standards. The Discovery & Access Service applies a two-step approach: first, it identifies interesting data collections with few criteria. Next, it applies more criteria to select specific data sets.

Due to the success of the first project round of Blue-Cloud, there is a successor Project: Blue-Cloud 2026. starting on January 1st 2023. The Blue-Cloud 2026 mission it “to achieve a further evolution of the Blue-Cloud Infrastructure into a Federated European Ecosystem to deliver FAIR and Open data, analytical services and instruments for deepening research of oceans (…) This will provide a core data service for the Digital Twin of the Ocean (DTO)”. For this follow-up project, the consortium expanded from 20 to 40 partners, and includes more Blue Data and E-infrastructures.

There are specific aims planned by Blue-Cloud 2026 to increase data interoperability: adding semantic brokerage for harmonizing terminologies, adding data subsetting functionality to facilitate the querying and extracting of data sets for specific criteria, and building semi-automatic workbenches for compiling data sets & elaborating these into validated and aggregated data collections of selected data types.


Digital Twins at the China-Europe Frontier Forum on “Progress in Ocean and Science Technology”, September 29th (online)

Organized by the European Academy of Sciences (EurASc) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), around 300 participants attended the two day online forum. Twenty speakers from European and Chinese institutes presented a range of topics around ocean and science technology. One entire session was dedicated to Digital Twins of the Oceans (DTOs), demonstrating there exists a significant interest and a variety of international efforts to push forward this innovative technology.
The speakers highlighted that DTOs have the potential to help us with many global environmental but also social challenges, such as pollution, sustainable fisheries or protection management. In addition to the scientific interest, there is also considerable political momentum supporting DTOs: the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), and the G7 One Ocean Summit. Moreover, a lot of infrastructure that can be used for creating DTOs is already in place (the Global Ocean Observing System and International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange internationally; Copernicus, the European Marine Observation and Data Network and Blue-Cloud at the EU level). The goal is to bring together and harmonize this data, in order to create a comprehensive, user-friendly DTO application. Furthermore, the private sector will need financial incentives to participate in DTO projects, and governments and regulators must be able to fully participate and benefit.
Below find a summary of the individual presentations.

Digital Twins of the Ocean (DITTO) a global UN Ocean Decade Programme for Sustainable Development (2021-2020)” by Martin Visbeck (Geomar, Germany EurASc)

DITTOs offer a unique opportunity to combine observational with digital data. Traditional observational data informs us of the current state of the ocean. Recent technological advances in data modeling allow us to predict how the ocean will develop in the future, as well as analyze how it behaved in the past. DITTO merges the best of both worlds via a two-way connection: observational data from the real ocean is used to refine the digital ocean, and manipulating the virtual twin can highlight regions of the real ocean in need of better observational data.

DITTOs are a virtual replica of the real ocean with a two-way connection. Observations from the real ocean refine the digital twin; manipulating the twin highlights regions of the real ocean in need of more observations. This generates valuable knowledge for a range of stakeholders. Image by Martin Visbeck.

DITTOs generate the scientific knowledge necessary for an evidence-based policy making, hereby producing “the science we need for the ocean we want”(motto guiding the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)). DITTOs empower ocean professionals, scientists, policymakers and the general public to visualize ocean data and knowledge, enabling the answering of ‘what if’ questions under differing climate change and policy scenarios.

Current ocean observation and information platforms are catering to an Initial Value Problem: “What is the state of the ocean today, and how will it change tomorrow?” Digital Twins include anthropogenic intervention, hereby making it a Boundary Value Problem: “How will ocean change if humans act (what – if scenarios)?”

Whilst certain data infrastructure is already in place, there are still some challenges to be met for DITTOs to move from theory to implementation. A co-design approach is needed to advance the existent ocean observing networks (e.g. GOOS, EOOS, Atlantos) to meet the needs for Digital Twins. DTOs will optimize the observing networks while simultaneously benefitting from them, creating a ‘virtuous circle’. On the side of ocean prediction, artificial intelligence and machine learning must be used to simulate change to the ocean system by human intervention. Moreover, we need to create a Digital Ecosystem which democratizes the data world, builds trust in open data as well as provides wide and equitable access. Last but not least, we need to provide a platform to efficiently deliver Digital Twin information. So-called Decision Making Theaters, 3D immersive environments, offer a striking method to visualize the knowledge generated by Digital Twins.

In order to answer these challenges, DITTO, a project under the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, has established 6 Working Groups with the aim of developing a comprehensive digital representation of the ocean. The Working Groups are:

WG1: Supportive ocean observations and data systems 

WG2: Data analytics and prediction engines 

WG3: Data lakes and interoperability 

WG4: Interactive layers and visualizations 

WG5: Framework – architecture, design and implementation  (TURTLE)

WG6: Education, training and capacity development 

The Working Groups are taking up their tasks as we speak and plan to publish position papers. The next global DITTO Symposium will take plane in Xiamen, China in November 2023. In the meantime, help expand the DITTO network by joining our Partnership Programme!

The European Digital Twin Ocean infrastructure, models and application” by Pierre Bahurel (Mercator Ocean International)

A Digital Twin of the Ocean is a European community effort. Endorsed by the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen and Emmanuel Macron both stated the tremendous potential and need for a DTO during the One Ocean Summit in February 2022. As a collaborative initiative, the Digital Twin of the Ocean “will make ocean knowledge open-access” and “a platform for global cooperation”. It is a unique tool combining multivariable earth system models with citizen science observations, and can help preserve a sustainable ocean and marine biodiversity.

Mercator Ocean International is implementing France’s commitment to a European DTO. In April 2022, 70 marine & digital experts came together at the 1st Digital Ocean Forum in Paris. Four main requirements were identified for the successful creation of a DTO:

(1) Accessing ocean data & new sensors;

(2) Enabling ocean modelling;

(3) A Digital Framework

(4) Serving the Ocean Intelligence

Four building blocks in the DTO value chain. Image by Pierre Bahurel.

Lead by Mercator Ocean and financed by Horizon Europe, two DTO projects have been established to address these requirements: EDITO Infra and EDITO Model Lab.

EDITO Infra is building a public infrastructure for a European DTO. Using existing European assets, EDITO Infra will deploy multiple DTO applications from current and future digital twin projects. The idea is to collect and harmonize all DTO applications on a single, widely accessible and user-friendly platform. Moreover, EDITO Infra is set to be fully compatible with Destination Earth (a project by the EU Commission set to build a Digital Twin of the Earth System).

EDITO Model Lab is a consortium of 14 partners with ocean modeling expertise from 9 European countries. In particular, these partners offer expertise in supercomputing, Artificial Intelligence, software development, operational oceanography as well as user applications. The Model Lab can then be used to answer ‘what-if’ scenarios, for example: “the impact of reducing macro-plastics emitted from major rivers”. After creating a scenario, researchers then identify the framework conditions (area, time emission), which in turn informs the data needed to answer the scenario (in this case: ocean circulation and river plumes simulation). Then, by combining observational data (emulation of surface current) with modeling output (Lagrangian trajectory), the Digital Twin can be used to address the initial ‘what-if’ scenario.

Mr. Bahurel concluded his presentation by stating that international openness is a founding and structuring principle of all European DTO endeavors. EDITO is directly contributing to the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, and the DITTO Programme offers a natural framework for international cooperation on DTOs.

Digital Twin Ocean and its Applications for China Coastal Regions” by Fei Chai (Second Institute of Oceanography)

DTOs have the potential to improve China’s management of its coastal areas. At the interface between the ocean, land, and atmosphere, coastal zones host an abundance of natural resources (97% species abundance, 86% of global fish catches, 30% crude oil production) and fulfill important ecosystem functions (25% marine primary productivity, 21% marine carbon sink). Thus, whilst constituting only 7% of the global ocean’s surface area, coastal regions require special attention and protection from intensified human activities and climate change.

Xiamen University is leading Coastal-SOS: a UN Decade endorsed project advancing the scientific understanding of critical coastal ocean health issues. Common stress factors include eutrophication (due to river run-off and agricultural land-use), industrial pollution (heavy metals, petroleum, organic pollutants) and intensive aquaculture farming. Six Coastal Systems in South-East Asia (Changjiang Estuary, Minjiang Estuary, Xiamen Sea Area, Pearl River Estuary, Gulf of Thailand and Johor Strait) are being used to test and improve one common approach: Observations-Modeling-Digital Twin of the Ocean. These regions are all undergoing rapid urbanization, and require an Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) strategy for a sustainable development and protection against environmental damage.

Digital Twins of the Ocean can be used to combine observational data with model simulations, yielding a comprehensive ICM strategy for coastal protection in especially endangered areas.

Current observational stations include data from the sky (remote sensing and micro satellites), the air (unmanned aerial vehicles remote sensing), the earth (shore-based stations and video monitoring), as well as the ocean (buoys, ship survey, seabed monitoring). A range of partners (Xiamen University, industrial partners, Fujian Tendering Group and Sanming Investment Group) are cooperating to further advance these observational methods, producing accurate, automated, real-time data. Combining this observational data with ROMS-CoSiNE Modeling could provide a real-time physical-biogeochemical forecasting system for Chinese coastal waters, enabling the prediction of hypoxia or eutrophication events. Another initiative counts on the contribution of citizens: if these are located close to a registered site of littering, they will be notified via mobile phone so that they may remove the litter.

DTOs can thus significantly contribute to the sustainable management of Chinese coastal regions. Xiamen University is highly interested in working closely with international communities to establish regional, targeted and easy-to-use DTOs for simulating and forecasting ocean conditions. The University proposed hosting the second International Digital Twins of the Ocean Summit in November 2023.

Digital Twin opportunities in support of the Biodiversity Agenda” by Isabel Sousa Pinto (Ciimaar, University of Porto)

The last Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity by IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) came to the alarming finding that the global species extinction rate today is at least tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the last 10 million years.

In addition to being a moral question about our relationship with nature, the loss of biodiversity also threatens the livelihood of billions of people. One in five people rely on wild species for income and food, and > 10,000 wild species are harvested for human consumption.

Thus, a variety of national and international initiatives are fighting against the loss of biodiversity; for example the EU’s 2030 Biodiversity Strategy and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Whilst terrestrial biodiversity is managed by national territories, the marine case is not so straightforward. Marine biodiversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ), i.e. the High Seas, is not subject to national sovereignty rights. ABNJs cover almost two-thirds of the world’s oceans, and contain resources and biodiversity of high ecological and socio-economic importance. Currently, the marine biodiversity governance framework for ABNJ is a patchwork of international organizations and treaties. This jumble prohibits an accurate overview of the state of many marine species, let alone the planning of sustainable management strategies. In order to enhance cooperation and coordination between the many existing legal instruments, in 2017 the UN adopted a resolution to develop a legally binding instrument for the protection and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in ABNJs.

This is where DTOs come in. In order to protect marine biodiversity, we need to assess the current state of marine life, and understand how it will change in the future. Biodiversity is affected by a range of physical, biological and chemical factors; the Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBV) are the measurements necessary to study, report and manage biodiversity change.

The Essential Biodiversity Variables required to manage biodiversity change. Defined by the Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON).

DTOs can help us determine which observational data is needed to obtain EBVs, and also integrate data from multiple sources (in-situ & modeling) to make smart conservation choices. This will allow us to determine, for example, where to set up aquaculture facilities or wind farms, how to manage fish populations or algal blooms.

The Ocean/Climate Model Development and its Support to Digital Twin” by Fangli Qiao

One of the 7 desired outcomes of the UN Decade of Ocean Science is “a predicted ocean where society understands and can respond to changing ocean conditions”. Accurate ocean models are a prerequisite for the development of DTOs, but current models face two major challenges:

(1) The simulated Mixed-Layer-Depth (MLD) is too shallow in the summer (compared to observations);

(2) There is a big Sea-Surface-Temperature (SST) bias.

Research shows that by including small scale surface waves, models simulate MLDs and SSTs that are much more accurate.

Wave-tide-circulation coupled model. Taken from Fangli Qiao’s presentation.

In order to build such an improved model, the “Decade Collaborative Centre for Ocean-Climate Nexus and Coordination amongst Decade Implementing Partners in P.R. China” (DCC-OCC) was launched in January 2022. The DCC-OCC will support initiatives addressing UN Decade Challenge 5: unlock ocean-based solutions to climate change. It is hosted by the First Institute of Oceanography (FIO) of the Ministry of Natural Resources of China, in partnership with the International CLImate VAriability Research Project Office (CLIVAR-ICPO), the China National Marine Data and Information Service (NMDIS), the China National Marine Environmental Forecasting Center (NMEFC), the China National Satellite Ocean Application Service (NSOAS), and the Regional Training and Research Center on Ocean Dynamics and Climate (RTRC-ODC).

The approved and endorsed DCC-OCC and OFS is looking for partners, and could play an important role in developing a DTO.


DITTO Blog : Contributions welcome!

Hi! I’m Joana, and I recently started working as a Scientific Writer for GEOMAR. I will support DITTO’s public outreach by writing blog entries and papers on the newest developments.

Diving with the Haenyo women of Jeju-do Island, South Korea.

I studied Oceanography at the University of Southampton and Integrated Climate System Sciences at the University of Hamburg. I then worked as a freelance science journalist before joining GEOMAR.

We want to illustrate all the exciting developments happening around DITTO, and warmly welcome and encourage blog entries from anyone involved in researching or planning DITTO. In case you would like to contribute, please send an e-mail to


2021 Year End DITTO Newsletter

As the year 2021 comes to a close we want to update you on the many developments of the DITTO Program over the last three months. The community interest in Digital Twins of the environment in general and Digital Twins of the Ocean specifically is enormous. So much so, that the small DITTO part time support team was overwhelmed to support all the requests for input and support, that we simply lacked the time and energy to build out our community. Clearly this is our number one entry on the DITTO New Years resolution list.

We wish you all a Happy New Year 2021. May the pandemic restrictions and hard ships reduce so that we can channel our energy back on ocean matters and engage in multilateral cooperation, share our knowledge and lift those up in need around us. Obviously, we have a high ambition, plans and exciting developments in store for the DITTO and Ocean Decade community and we hope to see you all engaged and productive.

Best Martin Visbeck and the DITTO team (including Ann-Christine, Leila and Sigrid)

Read the full DITTO news letter here.


Welcome to the new DITTO website

Dear friends of DITTO and those interested in Digital Twins (of the ocean). The UN Ocean Decade global program DITTO has launched its new website. It is still in early stages of development. But we are interested to hear from you about what features we should add.


September News – OceanDecade DITTO Program

Over the last few months a lot has been happening behind the scenes to advance the UN Ocean Decade endorsed programs. Read about all the action and plans to engage in the Predicted Ocean Decade Laboratory here.


DITTO Ocean Decade Program endorsed

Read the first newsletter about the DITTO program endorsement