Impact of SLA assimilation in the Sicily Channel Regional Model: model skills and mesoscale features
Abstract. The impact of the assimilation of MyOcean sea level anomalies along-track data on the analyses of the Sicily Channel Regional Model was studied. The numerical model has a resolution of 1/32° degrees and is capable to reproduce mesoscale and sub-mesoscale features. The impact of the SLA assimilation is studied by comparing a simulation (SIM, which does not assimilate data) with an analysis (AN) assimilating SLA along-track multi-mission data produced in the framework of MyOcean project. The quality of the analysis was evaluated by computing RMSE of the misfits between analysis background and observations (sea level) before assimilation. A qualitative evaluation of the ability of the analyses to reproduce mesoscale structures is accomplished by comparing model results with ocean colour and SST satellite data, able to detect such features on the ocean surface. CTD profiles allowed to evaluate the impact of the SLA assimilation along the water column. We found a significant improvement for AN solution in terms of SLA RMSE with respect to SIM (the averaged RMSE of AN SLA misfits over 2 years is about 0.5 cm smaller than SIM). Comparison with CTD data shows a questionable improvement produced by the assimilation process in terms of vertical features: AN is better in temperature while for salinity it gets worse than SIM at the surface. This suggests that a better a-priori description of the vertical error covariances would be desirable. The qualitative comparison of simulation and analyses with synoptic satellite independent data proves that SLA assimilation allows to correctly reproduce some dynamical features (above all the circulation in the Ionian portion of the domain) and mesoscale structures otherwise misplaced or neglected by SIM. Such mesoscale changes also infer that the eddy momentum fluxes (i.e. Reynolds stresses) show major changes in the Ionian area. Changes in Reynolds stresses reflect a different pumping of eastward momentum from the eddy to the mean flow, in turn influencing transports through the channel.