A primitive equation ocean circulation model in nonlinear terrain-following coordinates is applied to a decadal-length simulation of the circulation in the North Atlantic Ocean. In addition to the stretched sigma coordinate, novel features of the model include the utilization of a weakly dissipative, third-order scheme for tracer advection, and a conservative and constancy-preserving time-stepping algorithm. The objectives of the study are to assess the quality of the new terrain-following model in the limit of realistic basin-scale simulations, and to compare the results obtained with it against those of other North Atlantic models used in recent multi-model comparison studies. The new model is able to reproduce many features of both the wind-driven and thermohaline circulation, and to do so within error bounds comparable with prior model simulations (e.g., CME and DYNAMO). Quantitative comparison with comparable results obtained with the Miami Isopycnic Coordinate Model (MICOM) show our terrain-following solutions are of similar overall quality when viewed against known measures of merit including meridional overturning and heat flux, Florida Straits and Gulf Stream transport, seasonal cycling of temperature and salinity, and upper ocean currents and tracer fields in the eastern North Atlantic Basin. Sensitivity studies confirm that the nonlinear vertical coordinate contributes significantly to model fidelity, and that the global inventories and spatial structure of the tracer fields are affected in important ways by the choice of lateral advection scheme. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Computers in Earth Sciences
- Atmospheric Science
- Nonlinear terrain-following coordinates
- North Atlantic Basin
- Ocean circulation