Abstract

The approach to equilibrium of a coarse-resolution, seasonally forced, global oceanic general circulation model is investigated, considering the affects of a widely used acceleration technique that distorts the dynamics by using unequal time steps in the governing equations. A measure of the equilibration time for any solution property is defined as the time it takes to go 90% of the way from its present-value to its equilibrium value. This measure becomes approximately time invariant only after sufficiently long integration. It indicates that the total kinetic energy and most mass transport rates attain equilibrium within about 90 and 40 calender years, respectively. The upper-ocean potential temperature and salinity equilibrium times are about 480 and 380 calender years, following 150- and 20-year initial adjustments, respectively. In the abyssal ocean, potential temperature and salinity equilibration take about 4500 and 3900 calender years, respectively. These longer equilibration times are due to the slow diffusion of tracers both along and across the isopycnal surfaces in stably stratified regions, and these times vary with the associated diffusivities. An analysis of synchronous (i.e., not accelerated) integrations shows that there is a complex interplay between convective, advective, and diffusive timescales. Because of the distortion by acceleration of the seasonal cycle, the solutions display some significant adjustments upon switching to synchronous integration. However, the proper seasonal cycle is recovered within five years. Provided that a sufficient equilibrium state has been achieved with acceleration, the model must be integrated synchronously for only about 15 years thereafter to closely approach synchronous equilibrium.

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