Model Applications

Although models that use the primitive equations are frequently called Ocean General Circulation Models (OGCMs), the models presented in the previous sections have each their own history and range of prior application.

MOM was specifically designed for use in large-scale (basin-wide to global) configurations, addressing questions of wind driven and thermohaline circulation. It has been, and continues to be, used mainly in this area, with rather coarse (non-eddy resolving) resolution. In contrast, the terrain-following coordinate model class has traditionally focused on regional coastal applications, with eddy-resolving resolutions. Another important area of application of SPEM and SCRUM are idealized process studies in periodic channels or double periodic domains. Isopycnic models like MICOM have started from idealized configurations of frontal dynamics in the upper ocean.

In recent years, with increasing computer resources, the resolution of basin-wide models has increased to the point where it can be called eddy-permitting; at the same time, the continued development of both sigma and isopycnic models has reached a state to allow for basin-wide applications of these concepts. As a result, systematic model intercomparison studies have become possible.

Finite element methods are a rather recent addition to three-dimensional ocean circulation modeling. Experience in applications other than tidal modeling (e.g. Wunsch et al., 1998) and regional coastal modeling (Lynch et al., 1996) is therefore still limited.

Lastly we note that as the resolution of regional and basin-scale models increase, the primitive equations will cease to be adequate for the resolved dynamics. Then, models which utilize the full non-hydrostatic primitive equations (NHPE) will become necessary (Jones and Marshall, 1993; Sander et al., 1995).


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