A four-dimensional validation of a coupled physical-biological model of the Arabian Sea

Raleigh R. Hood, Kevin E. Kohler, Julian P. McCreary, Sharon L. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


In this paper, we use a coupled biological/physical model to synthesize and understand observations taken during the US JGOFS Arabian Sea Process Study (ASPS). Its physical component is a variable-density, 41/2 layer model; its biological component consists of a set of advective-diffusive equations in each layer that determine nitrogen concentrations in four compartments, namely, nutrients, phytoplankton, zooplankton, and detritus. Solutions are compared to time series and cruise sections from the ASPS data set, including observations of mixed-layer thickness, chlorophyll concentrations, inorganic nitrogen concentrations, particulate nitrogen export flux, zooplankton biomass, and primary production. Through these comparisons, we adjust model parameters to obtain a "best-fit" main-run solution, identify key biological and physical processes, and assess model strengths and weaknesses. Substantial improvements in the model/data comparison are obtained by: (1) adjusting the turbulence-production coefficients in the mixed-layer model to thin the mixed layer; (2) increasing the detrital sinking and remineralization rates to improve the timing and amplitude of the model's export flux; and (3) introducing a parameterization of particle aggregation to lower phytoplankton concentrations in coastal upwelling regions. With these adjustments, the model captures many key aspects of the observed physical and biogeochemical variability in offshore waters, including the near-surface DIN and phytoplankton P concentrations, mesozooplankton biomass, and primary production. Nevertheless, there are still significant model/data discrepancies of P for most of the cruises. Most of them can be attributed to forcing or process errors in the physical model: inaccurate mixed-layer thicknesses, lack of mesoscale eddies and filaments, and differences in the timing and spatial extent of coastal upwelling. Relatively few are clearly related to the simplicity of the biological model, the model's overestimation of coastal P being the most obvious example. Overall, we conclude that future efforts to improve biogeochemical models of the Arabian Sea should focus on improving their physical component, ensuring that it represents the ocean's physical state as closely as possible. We believe that this conclusion applies to coupled biogeochemical modeling efforts in other regions as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2917-2945
Number of pages29
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography
Issue number22-26
StatePublished - 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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