An investigation of the thermal response to meteorological forcing in a hydrodynamic model of Lake Superior

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© 2015. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. Lake Superior, the largest lake in the world by surface area and third largest by volume, features strong spatiotemporal thermal variability due to its immense size and complex bathymetry. The objectives of this study are to document our recent modeling experiences on the simulation of the lake thermal structure and to explore underlying dynamic explanations of the observed modeling success. In this study, we use a three-dimensional hydrodynamic model (FVCOM-Finite Volume Community Ocean Model) and an assimilative weather forecasting model (WRF-Weather Research and Forecasting Model) to study the annual heating and cooling cycle of Lake Superior. Model experiments are carried out with meteorological forcing based on interpolation of surface weather observations, on WRF and on Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR) reanalysis data, respectively. Model performance is assessed through comparison with satellite products and in situ measurements. Accurate simulations of the lake thermal structure are achieved through (1) adapting the COARE algorithm in the hydrodynamic model to derive instantaneous estimates of latent/sensible heat fluxes and upward longwave radiation based on prognostic surface water temperature simulated within the model as opposed to precomputing them with an assumed surface water temperature; (2) estimating incoming solar radiation and downward longwave radiation based on meteorological measurements as opposed to meteorological model-based estimates; (3) using the weather forecasting model to provide high-resolution dynamically constrained wind fields as opposed to wind fields interpolated from station observations. Analysis reveals that the key to the modeling success is to resolve the lake-atmosphere interactions and apply appropriate representations of different meteorological forcing fields, based on the nature of their spatiotemporal variability. The close agreement between model simulation and observations also suggests that the 3-D hydrodynamic model can provide reliable spatiotemporal estimates of heat budgets over Lake Superior and similar systems. Although there have been previous studies which analyzed the impact of the spatiotemporal variability of overwater wind fields on lake circulation, we believe this is the first detailed analysis of the importance of spatiotemporal variability of heat flux components on hydrodynamic simulation of 3-D thermal structure in a lake.

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Journal of Geophysical Research C: Oceans