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Ocean forecasting in terrain-following coordinates: Formulation and skill assessment of the Regional Ocean Modeling System

January 1, 2008

Systematic improvements in algorithmic design of regional ocean circulation models have led to significant enhancement in simulation ability across a wide range of space/time scales and marine system types. As an example, we briefly review the Regional Ocean Modeling System, a member of a general class of three-dimensional, free-surface, terrain-following numerical models. Noteworthy characteristics of the ROMS computational kernel include: consistent temporal averaging of the barotropic mode to guarantee both exact conservation and constancy preservation properties for tracers; redefined barotropic pressure-gradient terms to account for local variations in the density field; vertical interpolation performed using conservative parabolic splines; and higher-order, quasi-monotone advection algorithms. Examples of quantitative skill assessment are shown for a tidally driven estuary, an ice-covered high-latitude sea, a wind- and buoyancy-forced continental shelf, and a mid-latitude ocean basin. The combination of moderate-order spatial approximations, enhanced conservation properties, and quasi-monotone advection produces both more robust and accurate, and less diffusive, solutions than those produced in earlier terrain-following ocean models. Together with advanced methods of data assimilation and novel observing system technologies, these capabilities constitute the necessary ingredients for multi-purpose regional ocean prediction systems.