The Impact of a Reduced High-Wind Charnock Parameter on Wave Growth With Application to the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea, and the Arctic Ocean


As atmospheric models move to higher resolution and resolve smaller scales, the maximum modeled wind speed also tends to increase. Wave models tuned to coarser wind fields tend to overestimate the wave growth under strong winds. A recently developed semiempirical parameterization of the Charnock parameter, which controls the roughness length over surface waves, substantially reduces the aerodynamic drag of waves in high winds (above a threshold of 30 m s−1). Here, we apply the formulation in a recent version of the wave model WAM (Cycle 4.7), which uses a modified version of the physics parameterizations by Ardhuin et al. (2010, as well as subgrid obstructions for better performance around complex topography. The new Charnock formulation is tested with wind forcing from NORA3, a recently completed nonhydrostatic atmospheric downscaling of the global reanalysis ERA5 for the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea. Such high-resolution atmospheric model integrations tend to have stronger (and more realistic) upper-percentile winds than what is typically found in coarser atmospheric models. A 2-year comparison (2011–2012) of a control run against the run with the modified Charnock parameter shows a dramatic reduction of the wave height bias in high-wind cases. The added computational cost of the new physics and the reduction of the Charnock parameter compared to the earlier WAM physics is modest (14%). A longer (1998–2020) hindcast integration with the new Charnock parameter is found to compare well against in situ and altimeter wave measurements both for intermediate and high sea states.
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