Articles | Volume 11, issue 24
Biogeosciences, 11, 7291–7304, 2014
Biogeosciences, 11, 7291–7304, 2014

Research article 19 Dec 2014

Research article | 19 Dec 2014

iMarNet: an ocean biogeochemistry model intercomparison project within a common physical ocean modelling framework

L. Kwiatkowski1,2, A. Yool3, J. I. Allen4, T. R. Anderson3, R. Barciela5, E. T. Buitenhuis6, M. Butenschön4, C. Enright6, P. R. Halloran7, C. Le Quéré6, L. de Mora4, M.-F. Racault4, B. Sinha3, I. J. Totterdell5, and P. M. Cox1 L. Kwiatkowski et al.
  • 1College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4QF, UK
  • 2Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution for Science, 260 Panama Street, Stanford, California 94305, USA
  • 3National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton Waterfront Campus, European Way, Southampton SO14 3ZH, UK
  • 4Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Prospect Place, West Hoe, Plymouth PL1 3DH, UK
  • 5Hadley Centre, Met Office, Exeter EX1 3PB, UK
  • 6Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
  • 7College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4RJ, UK

Abstract. Ocean biogeochemistry (OBGC) models span a wide variety of complexities, including highly simplified nutrient-restoring schemes, nutrient–phytoplankton–zooplankton–detritus (NPZD) models that crudely represent the marine biota, models that represent a broader trophic structure by grouping organisms as plankton functional types (PFTs) based on their biogeochemical role (dynamic green ocean models) and ecosystem models that group organisms by ecological function and trait. OBGC models are now integral components of Earth system models (ESMs), but they compete for computing resources with higher resolution dynamical setups and with other components such as atmospheric chemistry and terrestrial vegetation schemes. As such, the choice of OBGC in ESMs needs to balance model complexity and realism alongside relative computing cost. Here we present an intercomparison of six OBGC models that were candidates for implementation within the next UK Earth system model (UKESM1). The models cover a large range of biological complexity (from 7 to 57 tracers) but all include representations of at least the nitrogen, carbon, alkalinity and oxygen cycles. Each OBGC model was coupled to the ocean general circulation model Nucleus for European Modelling of the Ocean (NEMO) and results from physically identical hindcast simulations were compared. Model skill was evaluated for biogeochemical metrics of global-scale bulk properties using conventional statistical techniques. The computing cost of each model was also measured in standardised tests run at two resource levels. No model is shown to consistently outperform all other models across all metrics. Nonetheless, the simpler models are broadly closer to observations across a number of fields and thus offer a high-efficiency option for ESMs that prioritise high-resolution climate dynamics. However, simpler models provide limited insight into more complex marine biogeochemical processes and ecosystem pathways, and a parallel approach of low-resolution climate dynamics and high-complexity biogeochemistry is desirable in order to provide additional insights into biogeochemistry–climate interactions.

Final-revised paper