Validation of three global ocean models in the Weddell Sea

Angelika H. H. Renner, Karen J. Heywood, Sally E. Thorpe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


We present a validation of three global z-level eddy-permitting/resolving ocean general circulation models against hydrographic observations and remote sensing sea ice data from the Weddell Sea. The Weddell Sea is a region in which complex processes such as water mass formation, sea ice formation and melt, and circulation under ice shelves take place. The representation of these processes is challenging even for the current generation of eddy-permitting ocean models. Simulating the hydrographic structure of this basin is a stringent test for models, notably so when considering the global influence of the regional processes. The performance of OCCAM (at two resolutions), ORCA025 and TPAC are tested regarding water mass properties, sea ice seasonality (OCCAM and ORCA025 only) and volume transport. OCCAM simulates the deep water masses reasonably well in both resolutions. The eddy-resolving run is not significantly better than the eddy-permitting simulation. ORCA025 and TPAC represent the surface layers and the Weddell Gyre circulation better but are generally too warm throughout the water column. All models underestimate Weddell Sea Bottom Water formation. Both OCCAM and ORCA025 struggle to correctly model the sea ice cover: OCCAM overestimates the summer ice extent while little multi-year sea ice remains in ORCA025. TPAC exhibits considerable drift in potential temperature during the model run. The choice of a model for a study has to be made carefully taking into account the model's performance in the specific area, application and variable of interest. We identify several starting points for improving the models, namely model numerics and parameterisations of subgridscale processes, ensuring more accurate forcing datasets, correct initialisation, and ice-ocean interactions, all of which are likely to have larger benefits than simply increasing the horizontal resolution beyond eddy permitting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalOcean Modelling
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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