Sensitivity of modeled estuarine circulation to spatial and temporal resolution of input meteorological forcing of a cold frontal passage

Research paper by Robert J. Weaver, Peyman Taeb, Steven Lazarus, Michael Splitt, Bryan Holman, Jeffrey Colvin

Indexed on: 13 Oct '16Published on: 12 Oct '16Published in: Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science


In this study, a four member ensemble of meteorological forcing is generated using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model in order to simulate a frontal passage event that impacted the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) during March, 2015. The WRF model is run to provide high and low, spatial (0.005° and 0.1°) and temporal (30 min and 6 h) input wind and pressure fields. The four member ensemble is used to force the Advanced Circulation model (ADCIRC) coupled with Simulating Waves Nearshore (SWAN) and compute the hydrodynamic and wave response. Results indicate that increasing the spatial resolution of the meteorological forcing has a greater impact on the results than increasing the temporal resolution in coastal systems like the IRL where the length scales are smaller than the resolution of the operational meteorological model being used to generate the forecast. Changes in predicted water elevations are due in part to the upwind and downwind behavior of the input wind forcing. The significant wave height is more sensitive to the meteorological forcing, exhibited by greater ensemble spread throughout the simulation. It is important that the land mask, seen by the meteorological model, is representative of the geography of the coastal estuary as resolved by the hydrodynamic model. As long as the temporal resolution of the wind field captures the bulk characteristics of the frontal passage, computational resources should be focused so as to ensure that the meteorological model resolves the spatial complexities, such as the land-water interface, that drive the land use responsible for dynamic downscaling of the winds.

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