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Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory Coastal Ocean Modelling System (POLCOMS)


The origins of POLCOMS lie with studies of frontal dynamics in the North Sea for the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) North Sea Project. Since then it has been extensively developed both as a hydrodynamic and a multi-disciplinary model, including use of its sediment transport module, coupling to the European Regional Seas Ecosystem model (ERSEM) and the Los Alamos Climate Ocean and Sea Ice (CICE) model. It has been coupled to the General Ocean Turbulence Model (GOTM) to allow a range of improved turbulence models.

It has been used extensively in POL's (since April 2010, part of the UK National Oceanography Centre (NOC)) and Plymouth Marine Laboratory's (PML) core research programmes, and in on-going research contracts with the UK Meteorological Office and a wide range of NERC and European Union (EU) funded research projects and programmes. These include the EU 'Marine Environment and Security for the European Area' (MERSEA) project, the NERC 'Centre for Air-Sea Interactions and Fluxes' (CASIX) programme, 'Marine Productivity' (MARPROD), the 'Land-Ocean Interaction Study' (LOIS), the NERC 'Rapid Climate Change programme' (RAPID) and the EU Framework 5 project 'Optimal Design of Observational Networks' (ODON). It was used as the 'work-horse' shelf sea model for the UK marine research centre programme 'Oceans 2025', and also by the National Centre for Ocean Forecasting (NCOF).


POLCOMS is a three-dimensional baroclinic Arakawa B-grid model designed for the study of shelf sea processes and ocean-shelf interaction. It can also be used in estuarine environments. The model solves the momentum and scalar transport equations for oceanographic applications with realistic topography, bathymetry and forcing. The underlying hydrodynamics in POLCOMS are the shallow water equations with the hydrostatic and Boussinesq approximations. This limits model applicability to flows where the vertical acceleration is small and in practice this imposes a minimum horizontal resolution; simulation can be made at resolutions finer than this but at no benefit to the solution. As a rough guide this can be taken as half the maximum water depth.

POLCOMS can be coupled to a range of different modelling systems: notably ERSEM, GOTM and CICE as mentioned above, and the 3rd generation WAve Model (WAM).


The following papers are examples which show the capabilities of the POLCOMS model. Numerous other publications based on POLCOMS outputs are available in the scientific literature.

Artioli, Y., Blackford, J.C., Butenschön, M., Holt, J.T., Wakelin, S.L., 2012. The carbonate system in the North Sea: Sensitivity and model validation. Journal of Marine Systems, 102-104(0): 1-13.

Wakelin, S.L., Holt, J.T., Blackford, J.C., Allen, J.I., Butenschön, M., Artiolo, Y., 2012. Modelling the carbon fluxes of the Northwest European Continental Shelf: validation and budgets. Journal of Geophysical Research, 117(C05020, 17)

Holt, J.T., Butenschön, M., Wakelin, S.L., Artioli, Y., Allen, J.I., 2012. Oceanic controls on the primary production of the northwest European continental shelf: model experiments under recent past conditions and a potential future scenario. Biogeosciences, 9(1): 97-117.

Holt, J., Wakelin, S., Huthnance, J., 2009. Down-welling circulation of the northwest European continental shelf: A driving mechanism for the continental shelf carbon pump. Geophysical Research Letters, 36

Wakelin, S.L., Holt, J.T., Proctor, R., 2009. The influence of initial conditions and open boundary conditions on shelf circulation in a 3D ocean-shelf model of the North East Atlantic. Ocean Dynamics, 59

Further information

For further information on POLCOMS, please contact a member of staff from the NOC Marine Systems Modelling Group .