Skill assessment of global, regional, and coastal circulation forecast models: evaluating the benefits of dynamical downscaling in IBI (Iberia–Biscay–Ireland) surface waters
In this work, a multi-parameter inter-comparison of diverse ocean forecast models was conducted at the sea surface ranging from global to local scales in a two-phase stepwise strategy. Firstly, a comparison of CMEMS GLOBAL and the nested CMEMS IBI regional system was performed against satellite-derived and in situ observations. Results highlighted the overall benefits of both the GLOBAL direct data assimilation in open water and the increased horizontal resolution of IBI in coastal areas. Besides, IBI (Iberia–Biscay–Ireland) proved to capture shelf dynamics by better representing the horizontal extent and strength of a river freshwater plume, according to the results derived from the validation against in situ observations from a buoy moored in NW Spain. Secondly, a multi-model inter-comparison exercise for 2017 was performed in the Strait of Gibraltar among GLOBAL, IBI, and SAMPA (Sánchez-Garrido et al., 2013) high-resolution coastal forecast systems (partially nested to IBI) in order to elucidate the accuracy of each system to characterize the Atlantic Jet (AJ) inflow dynamics. A quantitative validation against hourly currents from high-frequency radar (HFR) highlighted both the steady improvement in AJ representation in terms of speed and direction when zooming from global to coastal scales through a multi-nesting model approach and also the relevance of a variety of factors at local scale such as a refined horizontal resolution, a tailored bathymetry, and a higher spatio-temporal resolution of the atmospheric forcing. The ability of each model to reproduce a 2 d quasi-permanent full reversal of the AJ surface inflow was examined in terms of wind-induced circulation patterns. SAMPA appeared to better reproduce the reversal events detected with HFR estimations, demonstrating the added value of imposing accurate meteorologically driven barotropic velocities in the open boundaries (imported from the NIVMAR (Álvarez-Fanjul et al., 2001) storm surge model) to take into account the remote effect of the atmospheric forcing over the entire Mediterranean basin, which was only partially included in IBI and GLOBAL systems. Finally, SAMPA coastal model outputs were also qualitatively analysed in the western Alboran Sea to put in a broader perspective the context of the onset, development, and end of such flow reversal episodes.