An integrated ocean observatory has been developed and operated in the coastal waters off the central coast of New Jersey, USA. One major goal for the Long-term Ecosystem Observatory (LEO) is to develop a real-time capability for rapid environmental assessment and physical/biological forecasting in coastal waters. To this end, observational data are collected from satellites, aircrafts, ships, fixed/relocatable moorings and autonomous underwater vehicles. The majority of the data are available in real-time allowing for adaptive sampling of episodic events and are assimilated into ocean forecast models. In this observationally rich environment, model forecast errors are dominated by uncertainties in the model physics or future boundary conditions rather than initial conditions. Therefore, ensemble forecasts with differing model parameterizations provide a unique opportunity for model refinement and validation. The system has been operated during three annual coastal predictive skill experiments from 1998 through 2000. To illustrate the capabilities of the system, case studies on coastal upwelling and small-scale biological slicks are discussed. This observatory is one part of the expanding network of ocean observatories that will form the basis of a national observation network.



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