Spatial and Physical Oceanography Laboratory

The objectives of the Spatial and Physical Oceanography Laboratory (Laboratoire d'Océanographie Physique et Spatiale— LOPS) are to document the state of the ocean and its variability to better understand the physical and biogeochemical processes that govern ocean currents, the structuring of pelagic ecosystems and the observed state of the sea surface.


LOPS was created on 1 January 2016. From the merger of the Joint Research Unit (UMR) Laboratoire de Physique des Océans with the Laboratoire d'Océanographie Spatiale and physical oceanographers from the DYNECO research unit. It is made up of four research groups and an In Situ Observation Service.

This Joint Research Unit (UMR) associates the University of Western Brittany (UBO), IFREMER, the National Institute for Earth Sciences and Astronomy (INSU) of the CNRS, the Océan Department of French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD). It is also part of the European Institute for Marine Studies (IUEM), a UBO School, and an INSU Observatory (OSU).


LOPS develops and participates in research programmes in oceanography that contribute to the development of knowledge on the functioning of the ocean and its role in the climate at various temporal and spatial scales, in particular by

  • monitoring and analysing variability in the context of climate change. It gathers data from the open ocean to coastal regions, in the Arctic and along the French and African coasts and uses data generated from the Argo programme and dedicated oceanographic cruises.
  • focusing specifically on the air-sea interface to better understand spatial observations of salinity, currents, air-sea fluxes and also better predict extreme events, off shore and on the coast. This work relies in particular on data from spatial SMOS, Sentinel 1A & 1B, CFOSAT, SWOT missions.

The four research groups address the following topics with many interactions among them particularly through the cross-cutting research topics on data, digital modelling tools and polar oceanography:

  • Coastal ocean: study of ocean-atmosphere exchanges in coastal areas, coastal systems evolution in light of climate change, process dynamics in coastal and regional seas. etc.
  • Ocean and climate: diagnosis of the variability and trends in the ocean state (oceanic circulation, properties of water masses), understanding processes and their representation in ocean models, role of variability in the physical ocean on biogeochemical cycles, etc.
  • Ocean Scale Interactions: study of regional, seasonal and interannual variability in the North Pacific, study of decadal variability in ocean circulation in the Atlantic, current dynamics, diagnosis methods of high-resolution 3D dynamics from satellite sensor data, dynamics in marginal seas (Mediterreanean Sea, Persian Gulf, Red Sea), etc.
  • Spatial oceanography and the air-sea interface: study of the physics of the air-sea interface, sea ice dynamics, measurements of surface salinity and its role in the water cycle, extreme events (cyclones et extreme swells).

LOPS is also the chair or co-chair of two LabEx Mer topics: “The ocean machine at high resolution” and “Efficiency of the biological carbon pump”.