National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2002

Coupling global and regional circulation models in the coastal Gulf of Alaska

Hermann, A.J., D.B. Haidvogel, E.L. Dobbins, and P.J. Stabeno

Prog. Oceanogr., 53(2–4), 335–367, doi: 10.1016/S0079-6611(02)00036-8 (2002)

As part of the US GLOBEC NE Pacific program, we are simulating currents in the Coastal Gulf of Alaska (CGOA) to explore sources of interannual and interdecadal variability. To do so, we have developed a coupled modeling system composed of linked regional and global circulation models. The regional model, configured with 13–22 km resolution in the CGOA, is forced at the surface by observed heat fluxes and wind stresses, at the continental boundaries by observed runoff, and at the open ocean boundaries by a combination of tracer climatologies and sub-tidal velocity and tidal elevation provided by a global finite element model. In this communication, we describe the coupled system, including its present method of intermodel coupling, describe a series of multi-year model hindcasts, compare hindcast results with Eulerian and Lagrangian field data obtained in the CGOA in fall 1996, and assess the impact of global information (barotropic sub-tidal velocities and tidal elevations) on the regional model under the present coupling strategy. We find that the regional model produces appropriate current systems (Alaskan Stream, Alaska Coastal Current) and scalar fields, but with mesoscale variability (of SSH and velocities) at somewhat reduced strength relative to data, and with temperature gradients somewhat larger than those observed. Barotropic sub-tidal information from the global model penetrates the regional model interior, supplying additional mesoscale variability, and modifying regional velocity and scalar fields in both shallow and deep areas. Tidal information exerts a significant influence on sub-tidal scalar and velocity structure only in specific shallow areas, where the tides (and tidal mixing) are strongest. Pending the exploration of alternate coupling schemes, we infer from these results that on a time scale of months, purely barotropic information from outside the CGOA will have a modest impact on its mean regional circulation, but a potentially stronger impact on the statistics and details of mesoscale eddies.

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