Articles | Volume 6, issue 1
Special issue:
17 Feb 2010
 | 17 Feb 2010

Characterization of mixing errors in a coupled physical biogeochemical model of the North Atlantic: implications for nonlinear estimation using Gaussian anamorphosis

D. Béal, P. Brasseur, J.-M. Brankart, Y. Ourmières, and J. Verron

Abstract. In biogeochemical models coupled to ocean circulation models, vertical mixing is an important physical process which governs the nutrient supply and the plankton residence in the euphotic layer. However, vertical mixing is often poorly represented in numerical simulations because of approximate parameterizations of sub-grid scale turbulence, wind forcing errors and other mis-represented processes such as restratification by mesoscale eddies. Getting a sufficient knowledge of the nature and structure of these errors is necessary to implement appropriate data assimilation methods and to evaluate if they can be controlled by a given observation system.

In this paper, Monte Carlo simulations are conducted to study mixing errors induced by approximate wind forcings in a three-dimensional coupled physical-biogeochemical model of the North Atlantic with a 1/4° horizontal resolution. An ensemble forecast involving 200 members is performed during the 1998 spring bloom, by prescribing perturbations of the wind forcing to generate mixing errors. The biogeochemical response is shown to be rather complex because of nonlinearities and threshold effects in the coupled model. The response of the surface phytoplankton depends on the region of interest and is particularly sensitive to the local stratification. In addition, the statistical relationships computed between the various physical and biogeochemical variables reflect the signature of the non-Gaussian behaviour of the system. It is shown that significant information on the ecosystem can be retrieved from observations of chlorophyll concentration or sea surface temperature if a simple nonlinear change of variables (anamorphosis) is performed by mapping separately and locally the ensemble percentiles of the distributions of each state variable on the Gaussian percentiles. The results of idealized observational updates (performed with perfect observations and neglecting horizontal correlations) indicate that the implementation of this anamorphosis method into sequential assimilation schemes can substantially improve the accuracy of the estimation with respect to classical computations based on the Gaussian assumption.

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