Articles | Volume 5, issue 4
Special issue:
16 Oct 2009
 | 16 Oct 2009

Controlling atmospheric forcing parameters of global ocean models: sequential assimilation of sea surface Mercator-Ocean reanalysis data

C. Skandrani, J.-M. Brankart, N. Ferry, J. Verron, P. Brasseur, and B. Barnier

Abstract. In the context of stand alone ocean models, the atmospheric forcing is generally computed using atmospheric parameters that are derived from atmospheric reanalysis data and/or satellite products. With such a forcing, the sea surface temperature that is simulated by the ocean model is usually significantly less accurate than the synoptic maps that can be obtained from the satellite observations. This not only penalizes the realism of the ocean long-term simulations, but also the accuracy of the reanalyses or the usefulness of the short-term operational forecasts (which are key GODAE and MERSEA objectives). In order to improve the situation, partly resulting from inaccuracies in the atmospheric forcing parameters, the purpose of this paper is to investigate a way of further adjusting the state of the atmosphere (within appropriate error bars), so that an explicit ocean model can produce a sea surface temperature that better fits the available observations. This is done by performing idealized assimilation experiments in which Mercator-Ocean reanalysis data are considered as a reference simulation describing the true state of the ocean. Synthetic observation datasets for sea surface temperature and salinity are extracted from the reanalysis to be assimilated in a low resolution global ocean model. The results of these experiments show that it is possible to compute piecewise constant parameter corrections, with predefined amplitude limitations, so that long-term free model simulations become much closer to the reanalysis data, with misfit variance typically divided by a factor 3. These results are obtained by applying a Monte Carlo method to simulate the joint parameter/state prior probability distribution. A truncated Gaussian assumption is used to avoid the most extreme and non-physical parameter corrections. The general lesson of our experiments is indeed that a careful specification of the prior information on the parameters and on their associated uncertainties is a key element in the computation of realistic parameter estimates, especially if the system is affected by other potential sources of model errors.

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