, Volume 62, Issue 3, pp 411-437
Date: 28 Dec 2011

The predictability of near-coastal currents using a baroclinic unstructured grid model

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Abstract

A limited domain, coastal ocean forecast system consisting of an unstructured grid model, a meteorological model, a regional ocean model, and a global tidal database is designed to be globally relocatable. For such a system to be viable, the predictability of coastal currents must be well understood with error sources clearly identified. To this end, the coastal forecast system is applied at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay in response to a Navy exercise. Two-day forecasts are produced for a 10-day period from 4 to 14 June 2010 and compared to real-time observations. Interplay between the temporal frequency of the regional model boundary forcing and the application of external tides to the coastal model impacts the tidal characteristics of the coastal current, even contributing a small phase error. Frequencies of at least 3 h are needed to resolve the tidal signal within the regional model; otherwise, externally applied tides from a database are needed to capture the tidal variability. Spatial resolution of the regional model (3 vs 1 km) does not impact skill of the current prediction. Tidal response of the system indicates excellent representation of the dominant M 2 tide for water level and currents. Diurnal tides, especially K 1, are amplified unrealistically with the application of coarse 27-km winds. Higher-resolution winds reduce current forecast error with the exception of wind originating from the SSW, SSE, and E. These winds run shore parallel and are subject to strong interaction with the shoreline that is poorly represented even by the 3-km wind fields. The vertical distribution of currents is also well predicted by the coastal model. Spatial and temporal resolution of the wind forcing including areas close to the shoreline is the most critical component for accurate current forecasts. Additionally, it is demonstrated that wind resolution plays a large role in establishing realistic thermal and density structures in upwelling prone regions.

Responsible Editor: Pierre Lermusiaux
This article is part of the Topical Collection on Maritime Rapid Environmental Assessment