Challenges and prospects in ocean circulation models

Baylor Fox-Kemper, Alistair Adcroft, Claus W. Böning, Eric P. Chassignet, Enrique Curchitser, Gokhan Danabasoglu, Carsten Eden, Matthew H. England, Rüdiger Gerdes, Richard J. Greatbatch, Stephen M. Griffies, Robert W. Hallberg, Emmanuel Hanert, Patrick Heimbach, Helene T. Hewitt, Christopher N. Hill, Yoshiki Komuro, Sonya Legg, Julien Le Sommer, Simona MasinaSimon J. Marsland, Stephen G. Penny, Fangli Qiao, Todd D. Ringler, Anne Marie Treguier, Hiroyuki Tsujino, Petteri Uotila, Stephen G. Yeager

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

154 Scopus citations


We revisit the challenges and prospects for ocean circulation models following Griffies et al. (2010). Over the past decade, ocean circulation models evolved through improved understanding, numerics, spatial discretization, grid configurations, parameterizations, data assimilation, environmental monitoring, and process-level observations and modeling. Important large scale applications over the last decade are simulations of the Southern Ocean, the Meridional Overturning Circulation and its variability, and regional sea level change. Submesoscale variability is now routinely resolved in process models and permitted in a few global models, and submesoscale effects are parameterized in most global models. The scales where nonhydrostatic effects become important are beginning to be resolved in regional and process models. Coupling to sea ice, ice shelves, and high-resolution atmospheric models has stimulated new ideas and driven improvements in numerics. Observations have provided insight into turbulence and mixing around the globe and its consequences are assessed through perturbed physics models. Relatedly, parameterizations of the mixing and overturning processes in boundary layers and the ocean interior have improved. New diagnostics being used for evaluating models alongside present and novel observations are briefly referenced. The overall goal is summarizing new developments in ocean modeling, including: how new and existing observations can be used, what modeling challenges remain, and how simulations can be used to support observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number65
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Issue numberFEB
StatePublished - 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Ocean Engineering


  • Climate
  • Model
  • Ocean circulation
  • Ocean processes
  • Parameterization


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