Observation impacts on the Mid-Atlantic Bight front and cross-shelf transport in 4D-Var ocean state estimates: Part II — The Pioneer Array

TitleObservation impacts on the Mid-Atlantic Bight front and cross-shelf transport in 4D-Var ocean state estimates: Part II — The Pioneer Array
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsLevin, J, Arango, HG, Laughlin, B, Hunter, E, Wilkin, J, Moore, AM
JournalOcean Modelling
Type of ArticleJournal Article
KeywordsMid-Atlantic Bight, Observation impact, Observation sensitivity, Pioneer Array, ROMS 4D-Var

The Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) 4-dimensional variational (4D-Var) data assimilation system was used to compute ocean state estimates of the Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB). A three-level nested grid configuration was employed with horizontal resolution successively enhanced from 7 km down to 800 m at the innermost nest. This captures the dynamics on space- and time-scales ranging from the Gulf Stream western boundary current down to the rapidly evolving and energetic sub-mesoscale circulation. This is a companion study to Levin et al. (2020) which examined the overall impacts of the entire observing system on shelf-break exchange. This follow-on study specifically focuseson the impact of the in situ elements of the ocean observing system on the 4D-Var analyses. The particular focus here is on the Pioneer Array, a high-density observing system in the MAB designed to measure the multi-scale nature of shelf-break exchange processes. Building on Levin et al. (2020), it is found that the relative impact of observations from different components of the Pioneer Array depends on the scales of motion that are resolved by each nested grid. This is in apparent agreement with the linear theory of geostrophic adjustment despite the O(1) Rossby number. The synergy between the observations from different observing platforms has also been quantified by comparing the observation impacts with the sensitivity of the 4D-Var analyses to changes in the observing array. It is found that while some observations do not have a significant direct impact on the analyses, they nevertheless provide essential information about the presence of circulation features, corroborating that measured by other sensors. Thus, the individual parts of the observing system can borrow strength from each other. Finally, the contribution of each component of the observing system to the expected error in the 4D-Var analyses was also quantified, where the critical role played by the Pioneer Array moorings in resolving the sub-mesoscale circulation is again highlighted.


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