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High Order Schemes for 2D Unsteady Biogeochemical Ocean Models

Ueckermann, M.P. and P.F.J. Lermusiaux, 2010. High Order Schemes for 2D Unsteady Biogeochemical Ocean Models. Ocean Dynamics, 60, 1415-1445, doi:10.1007/s10236-010-0351-x

Accurate numerical modeling of biogeochemical ocean dynamics is essential for numerous applications, including coastal ecosystem science, environmental management and energy, and climate dynamics. Evaluating computational requirements for such often highly nonlinear and multiscale dynamics is critical. To do so, we complete comprehensive numerical analyses, comparing low- to high-order discretization schemes, both in time and space, employing standard and hybrid discontinuous Galerkin finite element methods, on both straight and new curved elements. Our analyses and syntheses focus on nutrient-phytoplankton-zooplankton dynamics under advection and diffusion within an ocean strait or sill, in an idealized 2D geometry. For the dynamics, we investigate three biological regimes, one with single stable points at all depths and two with stable limit cycles. We also examine interactions that are dominated by the biology, by the advection, or that are balanced. For these regimes and interactions, we study the sensitivity to multiple numerical parameters including quadrature-free and quadrature-based discretizations of the source terms, order of the spatial discretizations of advection and diffusion operators, order of the temporal discretization in explicit schemes, and resolution of the spatial mesh, with and without curved elements. A first finding is that both quadrature-based and quadrature-free discretizations give accurate results in well-resolved regions, but the quadrature-based scheme has smaller errors in underresolved regions. We show that low-order temporal discretizations allow rapidly growing numerical errors in biological fields. We find that if a spatial discretization (mesh resolution and polynomial degree) does not resolve the solution, oscillations due to discontinuities in tracer fields can be locally significant for both lowand high-order discretizations. When the solution is sufficiently resolved, higher-order schemes on coarser grids perform better (higher accuracy, less dissipative) for the same cost than lower-order scheme on finer grids. This result applies to both passive and reactive tracers and is confirmed by quantitative analyses of truncation errors and smoothness of solution fields. To reduce oscillations in un-resolved regions, we develop a numerical filter that is active only when and where the solution is not smooth locally. Finally, we consider idealized simulations of biological patchiness. Results reveal that higher-order numerical schemes can maintain patches for long-term integrations while lowerorder schemes are much too dissipative and cannot, even at very high resolutions. Implications for the use of simulations to better understand biological blooms, patchiness, and other nonlinear reactive dynamics in coastal regions with complex bathymetric features are considerable.