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On the Importance of High-Resolution in Large-Scale Ocean Models


Eddying global ocean models are now routinely used for ocean prediction, and the value-added of a better representation of the observed ocean variability and western boundary currents at that resolution is currently being evaluated in climate models. This overview article begins with a brief summary of the impact on ocean model biases of resolving eddies in several global ocean–sea ice numerical simulations. Then, a series of North and Equatorial Atlantic configurations are used to show that an increase of the horizontal resolution from eddy-resolving to submesoscale-enabled together with the inclusion of high-resolution bathymetry and tides significantly improve the models’ abilities to represent the observed ocean variability and western boundary currents. However, the computational cost of these simulations is extremely large, and for these simulations to become routine, close collaborations with computer scientists are essential to ensure that numerical codes can take full advantage of the latest computing architecture.


涡分辨全球模式现已被广泛运用于海洋预报. 模式在这一分辨率下能更好地模拟与观测一致的海洋变率与西边界流, 而这些改进为气候模式带来的附加价值也正在评估之中. 这篇概述文章首先简要地总结了分辨中尺度涡在几个全球海洋-海冰模式中对于减小模式偏差的作用, 然后应用一系列赤道与北大西洋模型来展示其效果: (1) 增加水平分辨率 (从分辨中尺度涡到分辨次中尺度涡) 加上高分辨率的海底地形, 以及 (2) 在海洋模式中加入潮汐, 显著改善模式模拟海洋变率和西边界流的能力. 然而, 这些高分辨率模式的计算成本极其高昂, 广泛运行这类模式需要与计算机科学家进行紧密合作, 以最大限度地利用最新的计算架构.


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EPC would like to thank Dr. Hailong LIU and his colleagues for their warm welcome during EPC’s visit in summer 2019 to the State Key Laboratory of Numerical Modeling for Atmospheric Sciences and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China. Support for this visit was made possible by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) President’s International Fellowship Initiative (PIFI). This overview article is heavily influenced by and reiterates many of the key points found in articles, chapters, and review papers written by the authors. Appropriate references were made, but there are many similarities in content and style to these publications throughout this article.

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Correspondence to Eric P. Chassignet.

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Article Highlights

• Substantial improvement in the representation of ocean variability and western boundary currents is observed when horizontal resolution is increased from 10 km to 1 km.

• An increase in horizontal resolution does not always deliver clear bias improvement everywhere.

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Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

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Chassignet, E.P., Xu, X. On the Importance of High-Resolution in Large-Scale Ocean Models. Adv. Atmos. Sci. 38, 1621–1634 (2021).

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Key words

  • ocean modeling
  • numerical models
  • horizontal resolution
  • boundary currents


  • 海洋模式
  • 数值模拟
  • 水平分辨率
  • 边界层流