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Global ocean circulation during 1992-1997, estimated from ocean observations and a general circulation model

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Stammer, D., Wunsch, C., Giering, R., Eckert, C., Heimbach, P., Marotzke, J., et al. (2002). Global ocean circulation during 1992-1997, estimated from ocean observations and a general circulation model. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans, 107(C9): 3118. doi:10.1029/2001JC000888.

[1] A three-dimensional oceanic state is estimated for the period 1992-1997 as it results from combining large-scale ocean data sets with a general circulation model. At the cost of increased computational load, the estimation (assimilation) method is chosen specifically so that the resulting state estimate is consistent with the model equations, having no artificial sources or sinks. To bring the model into close agreement with observations, its initial temperature and salinity conditions are permitted to change, as are the time-dependent surface fluxes of momentum, heat and freshwater. Resulting changes of these "control vectors'' are largely consistent with accepted uncertainties in the hydrographic climatology and meteorological analyses. The assimilation procedure is able to correct for many of the traditional shortcomings of the flow field by changing the surface boundary conditions. Changes in the resulting flow field are predominantly on the gyre scale and affect many features that are often poorly simulated in traditional numerical simulations, such as the strengths of the Gulf Stream and its extension, the Azores Current and the anticyclonic circulation associated with the Labrador Sea. Tests of the results and their consistency with prior error assumptions show that the constrained model has moved considerably closer to the observations imposed as constraints, but has also moved closer to independent data from the World Ocean Circulation Experiment not used in the assimilation procedure. In some regions where the comparisons remain indeterminate, not enough ocean observations are available, and it is difficult to ascribe the residuals to either the model or the observations. Although problems remain, a useful first solution to the global time-dependent ocean state estimation problem has been found. The estimates will continue to improve through the evolution of numerical models, computer power increases, more data, and more efficient estimation methods.