On the Warm Bias Along the South-West African Coast in Coupled Models: An Oceanic Perspective

Jinbo Wang, S.M., 2008
Paola Rizzoli, Advisor

Coupled ocean/atmosphere simulations exhibit systematicwarm biases over the SouthWest African (SWA) coastal region. Recent investigations indicate that coastal ocean dynamics may play an important role in determining the SST patterns, but none of them provide a detailed analysis. In this study, I analyze simulations produced both by coupled models and by idealized models. Then results are interpreted on the basis of a theoretical framework. Finally the conclusion is reached that the insufficient resolution of the ocean component in the coupled model is responsible for the warm biases over the SWA coastal region. The coarse resolution used in the ocean model has an artificially stretched coastal side-wall boundary layer, which induces a smaller upwelling velocity in the boundary layer. The vertical heat transport decreases even when the volume transport is unchanged because of its nonlinear relationship with the magnitude of the upwelling velocity. Based on the scaling of the idealized model simulations, a simplified calculation shows that the vertical heat transport is inversely proportional to the zonal resolution over the coastal region. Therefore, increasing the horizontal resolution can considerably improve the coastal SST simulation, and better resolve the coastal dynamics.