Articles | Volume 11, issue 3
Research article
04 Jun 2015
Research article |  | 04 Jun 2015

Assessment of an ensemble system that assimilates Jason-1/Envisat altimeter data in a probabilistic model of the North Atlantic ocean circulation

G. Candille, J.-M. Brankart, and P. Brasseur

Abstract. A realistic circulation model of the North Atlantic ocean at 0.25° resolution (NATL025 NEMO configuration) has been adapted to explicitly simulate model uncertainties. This is achieved by introducing stochastic perturbations in the equation of state to represent the effect of unresolved scales on the model dynamics. The main motivation for this work is to develop ensemble data assimilation methods, assimilating altimetric data from past missions Jason-1 and Envisat. The assimilation experiment is designed to provide a description of the uncertainty associated with the Gulf Stream circulation for years 2005/2006, focusing on frontal regions which are predominantly affected by unresolved dynamical scales. An ensemble based on such stochastic perturbations is first produced and evaluated using along-track altimetry observations. Then each ensemble member is updated by a square root algorithm based on the SEEK (singular evolutive extended Kalman) filter (Brasseur and Verron, 2006). These three elements – stochastic parameterization, ensemble simulation and 4-D observation operator – are then used together to perform a 4-D analysis of along-track altimetry over 10-day windows. Finally, the results of this experiment are objectively evaluated using the standard probabilistic approach developed for meteorological applications (Toth et al., 2003; Candille et al., 2007).

The results show that the free ensemble – before starting the assimilation process – correctly reproduces the statistical variability over the Gulf Stream area: the system is then pretty reliable but not informative (null probabilistic resolution). Updating the free ensemble with altimetric data leads to a better reliability with an information gain of around 30% (for 10-day forecasts of the SSH variable). Diagnoses on fully independent data (i.e. data that are not assimilated, like temperature and salinity profiles) provide more contrasted results when the free and updated ensembles are compared.

Short summary
A realistic ocean circulation model is adapted to explicitly simulate model uncertainties and an ensemble data assimilation -stochastic perturbations, altimetric data and 4-D observation operator- is developed in order to control the Gulf Stream dynamic. The performance of the ensemble system is measured through probabilistic approach; the update then adjusts the bias and the dispersion of the ensemble (reliability) and reduces the uncertainty by 30% (resolution) for the SSH variable.