Articles | Volume 9, issue 10
Development and technical paper
26 Oct 2016
Development and technical paper |  | 26 Oct 2016

Development and evaluation of a high-resolution reanalysis of the East Australian Current region using the Regional Ocean Modelling System (ROMS 3.4) and Incremental Strong-Constraint 4-Dimensional Variational (IS4D-Var) data assimilation

Colette Kerry, Brian Powell, Moninya Roughan, and Peter Oke

Abstract. As with other Western Boundary Currents globally, the East Australian Current (EAC) is highly variable making it a challenge to model and predict. For the EAC region, we combine a high-resolution state-of-the-art numerical ocean model with a variety of traditional and newly available observations using an advanced variational data assimilation scheme. The numerical model is configured using the Regional Ocean Modelling System (ROMS 3.4) and takes boundary forcing from the BlueLink ReANalysis (BRAN3). For the data assimilation, we use an Incremental Strong-Constraint 4-Dimensional Variational (IS4D-Var) scheme, which uses the model dynamics to perturb the initial conditions, atmospheric forcing, and boundary conditions, such that the modelled ocean state better fits and is in balance with the observations. This paper describes the data assimilative model configuration that achieves a significant reduction of the difference between the modelled solution and the observations to give a dynamically consistent “best estimate” of the ocean state over a 2-year period. The reanalysis is shown to represent both assimilated and non-assimilated observations well. It achieves mean spatially averaged root mean squared (rms) residuals with the observations of 7.6 cm for sea surface height (SSH) and 0.4 °C for sea surface temperature (SST) over the assimilation period. The time-mean rms residual for subsurface temperature measured by Argo floats is a maximum of 0.9 °C between water depths of 100 and 300 m and smaller throughout the rest of the water column. Velocities at several offshore and continental shelf moorings are well represented in the reanalysis with complex correlations between 0.8 and 1 for all observations in the upper 500 m. Surface radial velocities from a high-frequency radar array are assimilated and the reanalysis provides surface velocity estimates with complex correlations with observed velocities of 0.8–1 across the radar footprint. A comparison with independent (non-assimilated) shipboard conductivity temperature depth (CTD) cast observations shows a marked improvement in the representation of the subsurface ocean in the reanalysis, with the rms residual in potential density reduced to about half of the residual with the free-running model in the upper eddy-influenced part of the water column. This shows that information is successfully propagated from observed variables to unobserved regions as the assimilation system uses the model dynamics to adjust the model state estimate. This is the first study to generate a reanalysis of the region at such a high resolution, making use of an unprecedented observational data set and using an assimilation method that uses the time-evolving model physics to adjust the model in a dynamically consistent way. As such, the reanalysis potentially represents a marked improvement in our ability to capture important circulation dynamics in the EAC. The reanalysis is being used to study EAC dynamics, observation impact in state-estimation, and as forcing for a variety of downscaling studies.

Short summary
Ocean circulation drives weather and climate and supports marine ecosystems, so providing accurate predictions is important. The ocean circulation is complex, 3-D and highly variable, and its prediction requires advanced numerical models combined with real-time measurements. Focusing on the dynamic East Austr. Current, we use novel mathematical techniques to combine an ocean model with measurements to better estimate the circulation. This is an important step towards improving ocean forecasts.