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Study Evaluates Ocean Current Prediction Models

Scientists with the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi compared the accuracy and reliability of real-time ocean modeling forecast systems for near-surface currents.

They examined models that combine many separate forecasts to produce ocean state uncertainties (ensembles) and models that produce single forecasts. The ensembles provided not only more accurate predictions of currents than the single forecast models but also the valuable corresponding forecast uncertainties especially when calibrated. The ensemble models also improved predictions of particle trajectories and computations of Lagrangian Coherent Structures (LCSs) that play an important role in directing near-surface currents (as happened after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, causing a “Tiger Tail” of oil dispersion as described by Olascoaga and Haller in PNAS).

The NRL team published their results in the September 2013 on-line issue of Deep Sea Research II: Topical Studies in Oceanography: The performance of the US Navy’s RELO ensemble, NCOM, HYCOM during the period of GLAD at-sea experiment in the Gulf of Mexico.

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