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Identifying and quantifying nonconservative energy production/destruction terms in hydrostatic Boussinesq primitive equation models

Tailleux, R.G.J. ORCID: (2010) Identifying and quantifying nonconservative energy production/destruction terms in hydrostatic Boussinesq primitive equation models. Ocean Modelling, 34 (3-4). pp. 125-136. ISSN 1463-5003

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.ocemod.2010.05.003


This paper seeks to illustrate the point that physical inconsistencies between thermodynamics and dynamics usually introduce nonconservative production/destruction terms in the local total energy balance equation in numerical ocean general circulation models (OGCMs). Such terms potentially give rise to undesirable forces and/or diabatic terms in the momentum and thermodynamic equations, respectively, which could explain some of the observed errors in simulated ocean currents and water masses. In this paper, a theoretical framework is developed to provide a practical method to determine such nonconservative terms, which is illustrated in the context of a relatively simple form of the hydrostatic Boussinesq primitive equation used in early versions of OGCMs, for which at least four main potential sources of energy nonconservation are identified; they arise from: (1) the “hanging” kinetic energy dissipation term; (2) assuming potential or conservative temperature to be a conservative quantity; (3) the interaction of the Boussinesq approximation with the parameterizations of turbulent mixing of temperature and salinity; (4) some adiabatic compressibility effects due to the Boussinesq approximation. In practice, OGCMs also possess spurious numerical energy sources and sinks, but they are not explicitly addressed here. Apart from (1), the identified nonconservative energy sources/sinks are not sign definite, allowing for possible widespread cancellation when integrated globally. Locally, however, these terms may be of the same order of magnitude as actual energy conversion terms thought to occur in the oceans. Although the actual impact of these nonconservative energy terms on the overall accuracy and physical realism of the oceans is difficult to ascertain, an important issue is whether they could impact on transient simulations, and on the transition toward different circulation regimes associated with a significant reorganization of the different energy reservoirs. Some possible solutions for improvement are examined. It is thus found that the term (2) can be substantially reduced by at least one order of magnitude by using conservative temperature instead of potential temperature. Using the anelastic approximation, however, which was initially thought as a possible way to greatly improve the accuracy of the energy budget, would only marginally reduce the term (4) with no impact on the terms (1), (2) and (3).

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Walker Institute
ID Code:17554
Uncontrolled Keywords:Long term climate integrations; Model uncertainties; Numerical errors
Publisher:Elsevier Inc.

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