Evaluation of high-resolution atmospheric and oceanic simulations of the California Current System

Lionel Renault, James C. McWilliams, Faycal Kessouri, Alexandre Jousse, Hartmut Frenzel, Ru Chen, Curtis Deutsch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


This paper is the first of two that present a 16-year hindcast solution from a coupled physical and biogeochemical model of the California Current System (CCS) along the U. S. West Coast and validate the physical solution with respect to mean, seasonal, interannual, and subseasonal fields and, to a lesser degree, eddy variability. Its companion paper is Deutsch et al. (2021). The intent is to construct and demonstrate a modeling tool that will be used for mechanistic explanations, attributive causal assessments, and forecasts of future evolution for circulation and biogeochemistry, with particular attention to the increasing oceanic stratification, deoxygenation, and acidification. A well-resolved mesoscale (dx=4 km) simulation of the CCS circulation is made with the Regional Oceanic Modeling System over a hindcast period of 16 years from 1995 to 2010. The oceanic solution is forced by a high-resolution (dx=6 km) regional configuration of the Weather and Research Forecast (WRF) atmospheric model. Both of these high-resolution regional oceanic and atmospheric simulations are forced by lateral open boundary conditions taken from larger-domain, coarser-resolution parent simulations that themselves have boundary conditions from the Mercator and Climate Forecast System reanalyses, respectively. We show good agreement between the simulated atmospheric forcing of the oceanic and satellite measurements for the spatial patterns and temporal variability for the surface fluxes of momentum, heat, and freshwater. The simulated oceanic physical fields are then evaluated with satellite and in situ measurements. The simulation reproduces the main structure of the climatological upwelling front and cross-shore isopycnal slopes, the mean current patterns (including the California Undercurrent), and the seasonal, interannual, and subseasonal variability. It also shows agreement between the mesoscale eddy activity and the windwork energy exchange between the ocean and atmosphere modulated by influences of surface current on surface stress. Finally, the impact of using a high frequency wind forcing is assessed for the importance of synoptic wind variability to realistically represent oceanic mesoscale activity and ageostrophic inertial currents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102564
JournalProgress in Oceanography
StatePublished - Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aquatic Science
  • Geology


  • Atmospheric modeling
  • California current
  • Mesoscale activity
  • Oceanic
  • Upwelling system


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