Improving ocean model initialization for coupled tropical cyclone forecast models using GODAE nowcasts

George R. Halliwell, L. K. Shay, S. D. Jacob, O. M. Smedstad, E. W. Uhlhorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


To simulate tropical cyclone (TC) intensification, coupled ocean-atmosphere prediction models must realistically reproduce the magnitude and pattern of storm-forced sea surface temperature (SST) cooling. The potential for the ocean to support intensification depends on the thermal energy available to the storm, which in turn depends on both the temperature and thickness of the upper-ocean warm layer. The ocean heat content (OHC) is used as an index of this potential. Large differences in available thermal energy associated with energetic boundary currents and ocean eddies require their accurate initialization in ocean models. Two generations of the experimental U.S. Navy ocean nowcast-forecast system based on the Hybrid Coordinate Ocean Model (HYCOM) are evaluated for this purpose in the NW Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico prior to Hurricanes Isidore and Lili (2002), Ivan (2004), and Katrina (2005). Evaluations are conducted by comparison to in situ measurements, the navy's three-dimensional Modular Ocean Data Assimilation System (MODAS) temperature and salinity analyses, microwave satellite SST, and fields of OHC and 26°C isotherm depth derived from satellite altimetry. Both nowcast-forecast systems represent the position of important oceanographic features with reasonable accuracy. Initial fields provided by the first-generation product had a large upper-ocean cold bias because the nowcast was initialized from a biased older-model ran. SST response in a free-running Isidore simulation is improved by using initial and boundary fields with reduced cold bias generated from a HYCOM nowcast that relaxed model fields to MODAS analyses. A new climatological initialization procedure used for the second-generation nowcast, system tended to reduce the cold bias, but the nowcast still could not adequately reproduce anomalously warm conditions present before all storms within the first few months following nowcast initialization. The initial cold biases in both nowcast products tended to decrease with time. A realistic free-running HYCOM simulation of the ocean response to Ivan illustrates the critical importance of correctly initializing both warm-core rings and cold-core eddies to correctly simulate the magnitude and pattern of SST cooling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2576-2591
Number of pages16
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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