Impact of coupling an ocean model to WRF nor'easter simulations

Stephen D. Nicholls, Steven G. Decker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The impact of ocean-atmosphere coupling and its possible seasonal dependence upon Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model simulations of seven, wintertime cyclone events was investigated. Model simulations were identical aside from the degree of ocean model coupling (static SSTs, 1D mixed layer model, full-physics 3D ocean model). Both 1D and 3D ocean model coupling simulations show that SSTs following the passage of a nor'easter did tend to cool more strongly during the early season (October-December) and were more likely to warm late in the season (February-April). Model simulations produce SST differences of up to 1.14 K, but this change did not lead to significant changes in storm track (<100 km), maximum 10-m winds (<2ms21), or minimum sea level pressure (<5 hPa). Simulated precipitation showed little sensitivity to model coupling, but all simulations did tend to overpredict precipitation extent (bias <1) and have low-tomoderate threat scores (0.31-0.59). Analysis of the storm environment and the overall simulation failed to reveal any statistically significant differences in model error attributable to ocean-atmosphere coupling. Despite this result, ocean model coupling can reduce dynamical field error at a single level by up to 20%, and this was slightly greater (1%-2%) with 3D ocean model coupling as compared to 1D ocean model coupling. Thus, while 3D ocean model coupling tended to generally produce more realistic simulations, its impact would likely be more profound for longer-term simulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4997-5016
Number of pages20
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


  • Atm/Ocean Structure/Phenomena
  • Atmosphere-ocean interaction
  • Coupled models
  • Geographic location/entity
  • Model comparison
  • Models and modeling
  • North Atlantic Ocean


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