Computational Modelling Group


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Atlantic ocean meridional heat transport at 26oN: Impact on subtropical ocean heat content variability

Robert Marsh (Investigator), Maike Sonnewald

Local climate is significantly affected by changes in the oceanic heat content on a range of timescales. This variability is driven by heat fluxes from both the atmosphere and the ocean. In the Atlantic the meridional overturning circulation is the main contributor to the oceanic meridional heat transport for latitudes south of about 50◦ N. The RAPID project has been successfully monitoring the Atlantic meridional overturning at 26◦ N since 2004. This study demonstrates how this data can be used to estimate the basin-wide ocean heat content in the upper 800 m between 26◦ N to 36◦ N. Traditionally the atmosphere is seen to dominate the ocean heat content variability. However, previous studies have looked at smaller areas in the Gulf Stream region, finding that the ocean dominates deseasoned fluctuations of ocean heat content, while studies of the whole North Atlantic region suggest that the atmosphere may be dominant. In our study we use a box-model to investigate fluctuations of the ocean heat content in the subtropical North Atlantic between 26◦ N and 36◦ N. The box-model approach is validated using 19 years of high resolution GCM data. We find that in both the GCM and RAPID based data the ocean heat transport dominates the deseasoned heat content variability, while the atmosphere’s impact on the heat content evolution stabilizes after 6 months. We demonstrate that the utility of the RAPID data goes beyond monitoring the overturning circulation at 26◦ N, and that it can be used to better understand the causes of ocean heat content variability in the North Atlantic. We illustrate this for a recent decrease in ocean heat content which was observed in the North Atlantic in 2009 and 2010. Our results suggest that most of this ocean heat content reduction can be explained by a reduction of the meridional ocean heat transport during this period.

Early warning signals in climate data

Kevin Oliver, James Dyke (Investigators), Maike Sonnewald

Paleoclimatic records reveal that the Earth’s climate system has undergone sharp transitions between
states. Much work has recently been devoted to assessing how likely the current climate is to undergo such a sharp transition. This is motivated by the severe socioeconomic consequences such dramatic changes would entail. Thus, predicting iminent transitions would be very valuable. This review provides an overview of two promising techniques which could potentially be used to assess the stability of components of the climate system. These techniques are degenerate fingerprinting and detrended fluctuation analysis (DFA). It is found that degenerate fingerprinting is more widely used, but that DFA could be more suitable. DFA allows for memory in the time-series, and can give better results with less data. However, the DFA technique is best suited for systems close to the transitions, and relies on calibration with the degenerate fingerprinting technique further from the transition. Applying these techniques to forecast transitions is unfortunately impeded by lack of suitable data. Using data from several sources could overcome this. Thus, the techniques could be very valuable if the use of unevenly spaced data from several sources does
not lead to serious loss off accuracy. However, the techniques are still very useful when assessing underlying dynamics in model output and paleooceanographic time-series.

Generating Optimal Ensembles of Earth System Models

Simon Cox (Investigator), Elizabeth Hart, Andras Sobester

GENIE is an Earth system model of intermediate complexity. As with other climate models, the tuning of its parameters is essential for providing reliable long-term forecasts of Earth system behaviour. We apply a multi-objective optimization algorithm to the problem. The aim of the tuning exercise is to find the optimal values for the free parameters that produce and euqilibrium model end state with the closest fit to equivalent observational data.

How sensitive is ocean model utility to resolution?

Kevin Oliver (Investigator), Maike Sonnewald

One of the most intriguing problems in recent ocean modeling research is the impact of varying model resolution on model accuracy. Increasing model resolution one includes more of the important processes. However, the increase in accuracy with resolution is unlikely to be linear. Thus, as computational cost increases with resolution, a critical assessment of achieved benefits is prudent. Here we analyse a suite of realistic and compatible global ocean model runs from coarse (1o, ORCA1), eddy-permitting (1/4o, ORCA025) and eddy resolving (1/12o, ORCA12) resolutions. Comparisons of steric height variability (varSH) highlight changes in ocean density structure, revealing impacts on mechanisms such as downwelling and eddy energy dissipation. We assess vertical variability using the covariace of the deep and shallow varSH. Together with assessing isopycnal movements, we demonstrate the influence of deep baroclinic modes and regions where the barotropic flow sheds eddies. Significant changes in the deepwater formation and dispersion both in the Arctic and Antarctic are found between resolutions. The varSH increased from ORCA1 to ORCA025 and ORCA12, particularily in the Southern Ocean and Western Boundary Currents. However, there is no significant covariance between the surface and deep in ORCA1, while ORCA025 and ORCA12 show significant covariance, implying an important missing energy pathway in ORCA1. Comparing ORCA025 and ORCA12 we see significant differences in eddy energy dissipation. We assess the impact of varying model resolution on the mean flow, discussing implications to dissipation pathways on model accuracy, with reference to stochastic parameterisation schemes.

Modelling Macro-Nutrient Release & Fate Resulting from Sediment Resuspension in Shelf Seas

Chris Wood

This study involves adapting a previously-published model to take into account the effect resuspension events (both natural and anthropogenic) may have on nutrient dynamics at the sediment-water interface, and hence produce better estimates for the total nutrient budgets for shelf seas.

Sensitivity of the critical depth to the choice of particle movement rules in Lagrangian models and the consequences for the predicted timing of the spring bloom

Tom Anderson (Investigator), Melissa Saeland

Individual-based (Lagrangian) models lend themselves to the study of the controls of the spring bloom in the ocean, due to their ability to represent both the turbulence and the phytoplankton motion. Here, we use a Lagrangian phytoplankton model to test some of the most prevalent hypotheses (e.g. critical depth and critical turbulence).

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation’s Response to Variable Buoyancy Forcing

Kevin Oliver (Investigator), Edward Butler

An investigation into the impact of periodic variations in surface buoyancy forcing on the mean strength of ocean circulation; in particular, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation.

The Ocean's Gravitational Potential Energy Budget in a Coupled Climate Model

Kevin Oliver (Investigator), Edward Butler

This study examines, in a unified fashion, the budgets of ocean gravitational potential energy (GPE) and available gravitational potential energy (AGPE) in the control simulation of the coupled atmosphere–ocean general circulation model HadCM3.

Using MEP to determine parameter values of ocean and atmosphere diffusivity

Kevin Oliver, James Dyke (Investigators), Maike Sonnewald

Entropy budgets can potentially offer new and valuable insights into the dissipation of energy in the ocean system. Specifically, if one assumes the Earth system maximises the dissipation of energy, one can use this as a guiding principle maximising the internal entropy production. In this study, resultant temperature distributions from a four box ocean-atmosphere-ice model are used to assess to what extent such considerations could ameliorate the need for tuning parameter values associated with oceanic and atmospheric diffusivity. Results from a standard implementation with fixed, empirically determined, parameters were compared to one where the maximum entropy production principle is applied to determine the value of oceanic and atmospheric diffusivity parameters. These methods have been successfully applied to cloud fraction and convection in the atmosphere.

The MEP principle suggested using diffusivity values of 3.3×1014 W K −1 and 3.2×1014 W K −1
for the ocean and atmosphere respectively, where the empirical values were 2.0 × 1014 W K −1
and 1.0 × 1014 W K −1 . The oceanic temperatures of the MEP implementation were 3 and -1oC
away the high and low latitude observed ocean temperatures respectively, while the empirical
implementation was -5 and 3oC away, largely within the observational standard deviation of
8 and 2◦ C respectively. For the atmospheric values, MEP implementation was 3W m−2 away
from the high latitude observed value, while the empirical implementation was 6W m−2 away,
both within the standard deviation of 13.2W m−2 . However, in the low latitudes this reverses,
with the empirical implementation being only -16W m−2 off while the MEP implementation
is -21W m−2 off. However, both figures are outside the range of the standard deviation of
4.2W m−2 . Overall, both methods were found to be very close to oceanic observations. This
confirms that in the model used, the assumption of maximal dissipation of energy is reasonable.

Furthermore, the nature of the landscape of internal entropy production created by the
oceanic and atmospheric diffusivity was found to be fairly smooth, with non-linearities mainly
coming from ice albedo. Assuming the Earth system is in a state of maximal energy dissipa-
tion, applying the MEP principle successfully may depend on such a smooth, easily optimisable
landscape. Thus, the successful application of the MEP principle could be much more difficult
if attempting to aid parametrisation in more detailed ocean models, as these are likely to have
internal entropy production landscapes with local maxima. Nevertheless, results presented
are very promising, and encourage further exploration of to what extent this principle could
be applied to ameliorate the need for tuning parameters in light of lacking information.

Vertical turbulence structures in the benthic boundary layer as related to suspended sediments

Hachem Kassem (Investigator), Charlie Thompson

There is a genuine need for better, more robust modelling of suspended sediment transport in the coastal zone, both to understand its morphological evolution and it's impact on biogeochemical cycling, ecosystems services and to guide engineering applications such as dredging and defence schemes against erosion and flooding.
The suspension of sediment in turbulent flows is a complex case of fluid-particle interaction, governed by shear stresses (momentum exchanges) at the bed and within the benthic boundary layer (BBL). The intermittent transfer of momentum is a manifestation of coherent turbulent vortex structures within the flow. The passage of such structures (or clusters of) is often related to perturbations of bottom sediment, which may be entrained and maintained in suspension if sufficient turbulent energy is provided. The first part of my PhD investigated the temporal and scale relationships between wave–generated boundary layer turbulence and event–driven sediment transport in oscillatory flow in the nearshore. This involved complex statistical, spectral, quadrant and wavelet analysis of high frequency nearshore measurements of turbulence and suspended sediments (medium sand), collected as part of the EU-funded Barrier Dynamics Experiment II (BARDEX II). The following step aims to develop a 3D numerical model in OpenFOAM which would reproduce the fine scale turbulence structures observed over a fixed rippled bed in oscillatory flow. The 3D velocity field, turbulent components, correlations (stresses) and quadrant structures will then be linked to observed sediment resuspension events. The model will be validated against a set of laboratory experiments undertaken at the Fast Flow Facility at HR Wallingford.

µ-VIS Computed Tomography Centre

Ian Sinclair, Richard Boardman, Dmitry Grinev, Philipp Thurner, Simon Cox, Jeremy Frey, Mark Spearing, Kenji Takeda (Investigators)

A dedicated centre for computed tomography (CT) at Southampton, providing complete support for 3D imaging science, serving Engineering, Biomedical, Environmental and Archaeological Sciences. The centre encompasses five complementary scanning systems supporting resolutions down to 200nm and imaging volumes in excess of one metre: from a matchstick to a tree trunk, from an ant's wing to a gas turbine blade.


Simon Cox
Professor, Engineering Sciences (FEE)
Jeremy Frey
Professor, Chemistry (FNES)
Ian Sinclair
Professor, Engineering Sciences (FEE)
Mark Spearing
Professor, Engineering Sciences (FEE)
Robert Marsh
Reader, National Oceanography Centre (FNES)
James Dyke
Lecturer, Electronics and Computer Science (FPAS)
Kevin Oliver
Lecturer, National Oceanography Centre (FNES)
Paul Skipp
Lecturer, Biological Sciences (FNES)
Andras Sobester
Lecturer, Engineering Sciences (FEE)
Philipp Thurner
Lecturer, Engineering Sciences (FEE)
Tom Anderson
Principal Research Fellow, National Oceanography Centre (FNES)
Richard Boardman
Senior Research Fellow, Engineering Sciences (FEE)
Charlie Thompson
Senior Research Fellow, Ocean & Earth Science (FNES)
Dmitry Grinev
Research Fellow, Engineering Sciences (FEE)
Elizabeth Hart
Research Fellow, Engineering Sciences (FEE)
Nana Okra Abankwa
Postgraduate Research Student, Engineering Sciences (FEE)
Joseph Abram
Postgraduate Research Student, Electronics and Computer Science (FPAS)
Edward Butler
Postgraduate Research Student, Electronics and Computer Science (FPAS)
Hachem Kassem
Postgraduate Research Student, Ocean & Earth Science (FNES)
Hossam Ragheb
Postgraduate Research Student, Engineering Sciences (FEE)
Melissa Saeland
Postgraduate Research Student, National Oceanography Centre (FNES)
Maike Sonnewald
Postgraduate Research Student, National Oceanography Centre (FNES)
Chris Wood
Postgraduate Research Student, Ocean & Earth Science (FNES)
Elena Vataga
Technical Staff, iSolutions
Petrina Butler
Administrative Staff, Research and Innovation Services
Ella Marley-Zagar
Enterprise staff, Medicine (FM)
Kenji Takeda
Alumnus, Engineering Sciences (FEE)