General presentation


The EPIGRAM project concerns the dynamics of the French Atlantic marginal and coastal areas (Bay of Biscay and Channel). It is indeed noticeable that most of the researches on the dynamics of the ocean have concentrated on the deep ocean, and its low frequency (climate) variability. The coastal area has only driven back our attention in this field recently, thanks to the development of coastal operational oceanography, and the need for a better monitoring of this area for economical, health or military purposes. One of the main scientific lag is associated with observations at sea: there do not exist “heavy” campaigns at sea covering this area, and most of the scientific data were collected 15 years ago or more. The project is therefore based on:

  • The definition, realisation and exploitation of campaigns at sea, performed by IFREMER, CNRS/INSU and SHOM.
  • The construction of realistic numerical models of the area, and their comparison with observations at sea, on the basis of process studies.

The processes selected for this project are high frequency to seasonal variability at the most. We will concentrate on hydrodynamical studies and the main scientific goal is to improve our comprehension of the main dynamical processes of the continental shelf and margins in the “Manche” (Channel) and “Golfe de Gascogne” (Bay of Biscay) and the ability of the numerical models to represent them.

The project gathers 14 oceanographic public laboratories with about 50 people.

Finally, the EPIGRAM project will last 4 years and the funding obtained by ANR (ANR-08-BLAN-0330-01) and CNRS/INSU/LEFE/IDAO is 490.000,00€ (ANR : ANR-08-BLAN-0330-01) + 145.000,00€ (CNRS/INSU/LEFE/IDAO) =635. 000,00 € .

Full description of the ANR project 

Scientific objectives

The expected outcomes of the project are:

  • The realisation of four important campaigns at sea and the collection of data for all selected processes.
  • The scientific analysis of the collected data (furniture of diagnostics for all selected processes).
  • Validated realistic numerical models of the area (whose results will be compared to -and limits will be assessed from comparison with- observations at sea).
  • An improved understanding of the major physical processes of the area.

Socio-economical stakes

The French coastal region in the north eastern Atlantic (Channel, bay of Biscay) is the site of many activities:

  • economical (fishery, aquaculture, maritime transport, harbours, ...),
  • tourism (nautical tourism, Oceanopolis in Brest, protected natural reserves, ...),
  • scientific (existence of many scientific centres along the coast, IFREMER’s observational network, ...),
  • military (Navy’s harbours, specific military operations, ...),
  • ...

These activities also give rise to some risks, that have to be assessed, and sometimes accidents, for which special operations at sea have to be undertaken:

  • pollutions of different origin that can drift or be concentrated in some areas,
  • oil slicks in case of accidents,
  • object or body drift,
  • ...

Another subject of particular interest is the use of the sea as a source of renewable energy:

  • energy from the swell and waves,
  • energy from tides (localised strong currents, and tidal dams),
  • energy from mean currents,
  • thermal energy from the sea water,

All these activities would benefit from an enhanced monitoring of the oceanic environment and thus from the results of the present project.

Finally the chosen approach (built on the analysis of oceanic processes) will also facilitate the extension of the results gathered on the present project to other regions.