History of the Development of Numerical Models of the Ocean

Online seminar by Dr. Kirk Bryan Jr. from Atmosphere and Ocean Sciences Program, Princeton University

16 February 2021
KST 09:00 – 10:00

Join us online: https://pusan.zoom.us/j/89797566144

In the early 1950’s John von Neumann and Jules Charney carried out the first successful numerical weather forecasts at the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton. The United States Weather Bureau acquired a version of von Neumann’s computer and began issuing numerical forecasts. Joseph Smagorinsky, who was a former member of von Neumann’s group, was made head of a separate group at the Weather Bureau to develop more general models to investigate long range weather prediction and climate. In the early 1960’s preliminary work an ocean model began in this new laboratory. Two great obstacles existed for this project; 1. observations of the World Ocean were very sparce at that time, and 2. computers were very limited. To lend credence, the first models simply reproduced familiar, idealized, linear representations of ocean circulation, and illustrated how they were modified when nonlinear effects were added. Next we considered simple, idealized multi-layer models.

By the mid 1970’s the scientific community became aware of the potential of climate models. Ocean modeling groups started at University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) and at the new National Center of Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Bert Semtner and William Holland from our laboratory joined UCLA and NCAR, respectively. Cooperation led to some important innovations. The first coupled ocean-atmosphere model received a lot of attention. Studies by Michael Cox showed that models of the equatorial oceans had a great potential because the scales of ocean circulation are so much easier to resolve at low latitudes. Philander and Pacanowski published the first paper on a coupled ocean-atmosphere model of the El Nino. The formation of the IPCC in 1990 and the awareness of climate change led to formation of climate modeling centers all over the globe .

Studies showed the potential of long range prediction in coupled ocean- atmosphere models using model data. Follow up studies using actual data showed that this potential prediction was difficult to attain. When initialized with real data the coupled models had a large model drift, particularly in the North Atlantic. Ocean models have proved to be very successful in climate studies, and in the analysis of ocean data. The early goal that coupled ocean-atmosphere models would revolutionize long-range weather prediction remains a challenge for future ocean modelers.