Estimating the numerical diapycnal mixing in an eddy-permitting ocean model

Megann, Alex. 2018 Estimating the numerical diapycnal mixing in an eddy-permitting ocean model. Ocean Modelling, 121. 19-33.

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Constant-depth (or "z-coordinate") ocean models such as MOM4 and NEMO have become the de facto workhorse in climate applications, having attained a mature stage in their development and are well understood. A generic shortcoming of this model type, however, is a tendency for the advection scheme to produce unphysical numerical diapycnal mixing, which in some cases may exceed the explicitly parameterised mixing based on observed physical processes, and this is likely to have effects on the long-timescale evolution of the simulated climate system. Despite this, few quantitative estimates have been made of the typical magnitude of the effective diapycnal diffusivity due to numerical mixing in these models. GO5.0 is a recent ocean model configuration developed jointly by the UK Met Office and the National Oceanography Centre. It forms the ocean component of the GC2 climate model, and is closely related to the ocean component of the UKESM1 Earth System Model, the UK's contribution to the CMIP6 model intercomparison. GO5.0 uses version 3.4 of the NEMO model, on the ORCA025 global tripolar grid. An approach to quantifying the numerical diapycnal mixing in this model, based on the isopycnal watermass analysis of Lee et al (2002), is described, and the estimates thereby obtained of the effective diapycnal diffusivity in GO5.0 are compared with the values of the explicit diffusivity used by the model. It is shown that the effective mixing in this model configuration is up to an order of magnitude higher than the explicit mixing in much of the ocean interior, implying that mixing in the model below the mixed layer is largely dominated by numerical mixing. This is likely to have adverse consequences for the representation of heat uptake in climate models intended for decadal climate projections, and in particular is highly relevant to the interpretation of the CMIP6 class of climate models, many of which use constant-depth ocean models at ¼° resolution.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 14635003
Date made live: 20 Nov 2017 16:50 +0 (UTC)

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