U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Will High-Resolution Global Ocean Models Benefit Coupled Predictions on Short-Range to Climate Timescales?
Published: December 01, 2017
Posted: April 09, 2018

Benefits of high-resolution ocean models to climate simulation.

The Science
This is a review article of the benefits of the explicit resolution of mesoscale eddies, narrow boundary currents and their frontal structures, and topographic-flow interactions in the ocean components of global coupled models. Based on published, albeit limited results, the emerging consensus is that the realistic representation of these features and processes is important for coupled prediction.

The Impact
Fine resolution coupled models allow for the representation of climate processes and feedbacks on short space scales that are currently missing in standard coupled models. Overall, both ocean and atmospheric circulations are impacted by the presence of explicit mesoscale eddies and well-resolved frontal systems. 

A review of published findings indicates that it is very likely important to explicitly resolve oceanic mesoscale eddies, frontal systems associated with western boundary currents, and topographic-flow interactions in coupled prediction models. In standard climate models, these processes and features are either unrealistically represented or are parameterized, or may even be missing. It was found that explicitly resolved mesoscale eddies reduce subsurface ocean model warming drifts, improving the realism of water masses relative to those in standard models. The energy cycle and meandering state of the Kuroshio Extension in the North Pacific was found to be strongly dependent on mesoscale eddy-atmosphere feedbacks. Accurate simulation of climate system responses in the Southern Ocean was reported to be critically dependent on mesoscale eddies. Mesoscale oceanic eddies impact the atmospheric boundary layer and above, as well as extra-tropical storm tracks. In the Gulf Stream region, storm track biases were reduced and blocking frequencies improved. 

Contacts (BER PM)
Renu Joseph
Regional and Global Climate Modeling

Dorothy Koch
Earth System Modeling

(PI Contact)
Julie L McClean
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

This work is supported by the Director, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research of the US Department of Energy as part of the Earth System Modeling and Regional and Global Climate Modeling programs.

Hewitt, H.T., M.J. Bell, E.P. Chassignet, A. Czaja, D. Ferreira, S.M. Griffies, P. Hyder, J. McClean, A.L. New, and M.J. Roberts, "Will high-resolution global ocean models benefit coupled predictions on short-range to climate timescales?" Ocean Modelling 120, 120-136 (2018). [DOI:10.1016/j.ocemod.2017.11.002]

Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Aug 24, 2019
New Approach for Studying How Microbes Influence Their Environment
A diverse group of scientists suggests a common framework and targeting of known microbial processes [more...]

Aug 08, 2019
Nutrient-Hungry Peatland Microbes Reduce Carbon Loss Under Warmer Conditions
Enzyme production in peatlands reduces carbon lost to respiration under future high temperatures. [more...]

Aug 05, 2019
Amazon Forest Response to CO2 Fertilization Dependent on Plant Phosphorus Acquisition
AmazonFACE Model Intercomparison. The Science Plant growth is dependent on the availabi [more...]

Jul 29, 2019
A Slippery Slope: Soil Carbon Destabilization
Carbon gain or loss depends on the balance between competing biological, chemical, and physical reac [more...]

Jul 15, 2019
Field Evaluation of Gas Analyzers for Measuring Ecosystem Fluxes
How gas analyzer type and correction method impact measured fluxes. The Science A side- [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)