Ensemble-Based Estimates of the Predictability of Wind-Driven Coastal Ocean Flow over Topography

Sangil Kim College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon

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R. M. Samelson College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon

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Chris Snyder National Center for Atmospheric Research,* Boulder, Colorado

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Abstract

The predictability of coastal ocean circulation over the central Oregon shelf, a region of strong wind-driven currents and variable topography, is studied using ensembles of 50-day primitive equation ocean model simulations with realistic topography, simplified lateral boundary conditions, and forcing from both idealized and observed wind time series representative of the summer upwelling season. The main focus is on the balance, relevant to practical predictability, between deterministic response to known or well-predicted forcing, uncertainty in initial conditions, and sensitivity to instabilities and topographic interactions. Large ensemble and single-simulation variances are found downstream of topographic features, associated with transitions between along-isobath and cross-isobath flow, which are in turn related both to the time-integrated amplitude of upwelling-favorable wind forcing and to the formation of small-scale eddies. Simulated predictability experiments are conducted and model forecasts are verified by standard statistics including anomaly correlation coefficient, and root-mean-square error. A new variant of relative entropy, the forecast relative entropy, is introduced to quantify the predictive information content in the forecast ensemble, relative to the initial ensemble. The results suggest that, even under conditions of relatively weak wind forcing, the deterministic response is stronger than instability growth over the 3–7-day forecast intervals considered here. Consequently, important elements of the coastal circulation should be accessible to predictive, dynamical forecasts on the nominal 7-day predictability time scale of the atmospheric forcing, provided that sufficiently accurate initializations are available. These results on predictability are consistent with inferences drawn from recent modeling studies of coastal ocean circulation along the central Oregon shelf, and should have general validity for other, similar regions.

Corresponding author address: Sangil Kim, College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331. Email: skim@coas.oregonstate.edu

Abstract

The predictability of coastal ocean circulation over the central Oregon shelf, a region of strong wind-driven currents and variable topography, is studied using ensembles of 50-day primitive equation ocean model simulations with realistic topography, simplified lateral boundary conditions, and forcing from both idealized and observed wind time series representative of the summer upwelling season. The main focus is on the balance, relevant to practical predictability, between deterministic response to known or well-predicted forcing, uncertainty in initial conditions, and sensitivity to instabilities and topographic interactions. Large ensemble and single-simulation variances are found downstream of topographic features, associated with transitions between along-isobath and cross-isobath flow, which are in turn related both to the time-integrated amplitude of upwelling-favorable wind forcing and to the formation of small-scale eddies. Simulated predictability experiments are conducted and model forecasts are verified by standard statistics including anomaly correlation coefficient, and root-mean-square error. A new variant of relative entropy, the forecast relative entropy, is introduced to quantify the predictive information content in the forecast ensemble, relative to the initial ensemble. The results suggest that, even under conditions of relatively weak wind forcing, the deterministic response is stronger than instability growth over the 3–7-day forecast intervals considered here. Consequently, important elements of the coastal circulation should be accessible to predictive, dynamical forecasts on the nominal 7-day predictability time scale of the atmospheric forcing, provided that sufficiently accurate initializations are available. These results on predictability are consistent with inferences drawn from recent modeling studies of coastal ocean circulation along the central Oregon shelf, and should have general validity for other, similar regions.

Corresponding author address: Sangil Kim, College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331. Email: skim@coas.oregonstate.edu

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