Simulating the Agulhas system in global ocean models – nesting vs. multi-resolution unstructured meshes

dmitry.sein [ at ]


Many questions in ocean and climate modelling require the combined use of high resolution, global coverage and multi-decadal integration length. For this combination, even modern resources limit the use of traditional structured-mesh grids. Here we compare two approaches: A high-resolution grid nested into a global model at coarser resolution (NEMO with AGRIF) and an unstructured-mesh grid (FESOM) which allows to variably enhance resolution where desired. The Agulhas system around South Africa is used as a testcase, providing an energetic interplay of a strong western boundary current and mesoscale dynamics. Its open setting into the horizontal and global overturning circulations also requires global coverage. Both model configurations simulate a reasonable large-scale circulation. Distribution and temporal variability of the wind-driven circulation are quite comparable due to the same atmospheric forcing. However, the overturning circulation differs, owing each model’s ability to represent formation and spreading of deep water masses. In terms of regional, high-resolution dynamics, all elements of the Agulhas system are well represented. Owing to the strong nonlinearity in the system, Agulhas Current transports of both configurations and in comparison with observations differ in strength and temporal variability. Similar decadal trends in Agulhas Current transport and Agulhas leakage are linked to the trends in wind forcing. Although the number of 3D wet grid points used in FESOM is similar to that in the nested NEMO, FESOM uses about two times the number of CPUs to obtain the same model throughput (in terms of simulated model years per day). This is feasible due to the high scalability of the FESOM code.

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DOI 10.1016/j.ocemod.2017.12.002

Cite as
Biastoch, A. , Sein, D. , Durgadoo, J. V. , Wang, Q. and Danilov, S. (2018): Simulating the Agulhas system in global ocean models – nesting vs. multi-resolution unstructured meshes , Ocean Modelling, 121 , pp. 117-131 . doi: 10.1016/j.ocemod.2017.12.002


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