Accuracy of numerical wave model results: application to the Atlantic coasts of Europe

Numerical wave models are generally less accurate in the coastal ocean than offshore. It is generally suspected that a number of factors specific to coastal environments can be blamed for these larger model errors: complex shoreline and topography, relatively short fetches, combination of remote swells and local wind seas, less accurate wind fields, presence of strong currents, bottom friction, etc. These factors generally have strong local variations, making it all the more difficult to adapt a particular model setup from one area to another. Here we investigate a wide range of modeling choices including forcing fields, spectral resolution, and parameterizations of physical processes in a regional model that covers most of the Atlantic and North Sea coasts. The effects of these choices on the model results are analyzed with buoy spectral data and wave parameter time series. Additionally, satellite altimeter data are employed to provide a more complete performance assessment of the modeled wave heights as a function of the distance to the coast and to identify areas where wave propagation is influenced by bottom friction. We show that the accurate propagation of waves from offshore is probably the most important factor on exposed shorelines, while other specific effects can be important locally, including winds, currents, and bottom friction.

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Alday Gonzalez Matias Felipe, Ardhuin Fabrice, Dodet Guillaume, Accensi Mickael (2022). Accuracy of numerical wave model results: application to the Atlantic coasts of Europe. Ocean Science. 18 (6). 1665-1689.,

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