Ocean Modelling and Forecasting pages

History of the Physical Oceanography Group at NOC

Way back in the mists of time, the government were worried about the decline in whale numbers and set up Discovery Investigations to look into the problem. The group were given the old Discovery (and later the updated Discovery II) to carry out their research. Meanwhile, the Admiralty decided that it would be a good thing to know something about the oceans, and decided to set up Group W, based at Teddington, to try and predict waves for the D-Day landings.

These two groups were combined to form the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) under the leadership of one George Deacon (later Sir George Deacon, namesake of a sister division, the George Deacon Division for Ocean Processes). When asked where this institute should be located, George Deacon decided it should be as far from the sea as possible and so chose Wormley, Surrey (actually because it was close to London to attend meetings).

Time passed and the NIO came under the auspices of the Natural Environment Research Council in 1965. Subsequent reorganisation led to a merging of the NIO with the Institute of Coastal Oceanography and Tides (Bidston) and the Unit for Coastal Sedimentation (Taunton) in 1973. The resulting three-centre Institute of Oceanography Sciences (IOS) was re-divided in 1987. The Wormley site, which included the Marine Physics Group was then known as IOS Deacon Laboratory (IOSDL).

By 1990, plans were already well in hand for IOSDL to merge with the University of Southampton's Departments of Oceangraphy and Geology to form the Southampton Oceanography Centre (SOC). As a result, it was decided that NERCs major investment to carry out research within the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE) should be carried out in a new centre, the James Rennell Centre for Ocean Circulation, based in Chilworth, just North of Southampton. The Centre was named for Major James Rennell FRS who conducted pioneering work on ocean circulation.

IOSDL finally moved to Southampton and the new Southampton Oceanography Centre in 1995. Following tradition the physical oceanography group was also renamed as the James Rennell Division for Ocean Cirulation, later having and Climate added in recognition of the increasing importance of Climate in the research.

In 2005 the group was split into two parts, the more experimental based research coming under Ocean Observing and Climate and the modelling and theoretical work under Ocean Modelling and Forecasting.

Although SOC worked extremely well at a research level, it was eventually decided to split the university management from the management of the national oceanographic facilities. This led in 2010 to the setting up of the National Oceanography Centre which included NERC facilities and staff at both Southampton and Liverpool, the modelling and theoretical research at both sites then coming under Marine Modelling and Forecasting.

The early research of the group, up to the formation of the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences is described in the book Of Seas and Ships and Scientists written and edited by Dr Anthony Laughton and many of his colleagues from that time.