Simulating Water Residence Time in the Coastal Ocean: A Global Perspective

Xiao Liu, John P. Dunne, Charles A. Stock, Matthew J. Harrison, Alistair Adcroft, Laure Resplandy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Exchanges between coastal and oceanic waters shape both coastal ecosystem processes and signatures that they impart on global biogeochemical cycles. The timescales of these exchanges, however, are poorly represented in current-generation, coarse-grid climate models. Here we provide a novel global perspective on coastal residence time (CRT) and its spatio-temporal variability using a new age tracer implemented in global ocean models. Simulated CRTs range widely from several days in narrow boundary currents to multiple years on broader shelves and in semi-enclosed seas, in agreement with available observations. Overall, CRT is better characterized in high-resolution models (1/8° and 1/4°) than in the coarser (1° and 1/2°) versions. This is in large part because coastal and open ocean grid cells are more directly connected in coarse models, prone to erroneous coastal flushing and an underestimated CRT. Additionally, we find that geometric enclosure of a coastal system places an important constraint on CRT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13910-13919
Number of pages10
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 16 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


  • coast-ocean exchanges
  • coastal geometry and processes
  • global ocean models
  • residence time


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