Environmental Fluid Mechanics

, Volume 10, Issue 1–2, pp 275–295 | Cite as

Boundary impulse response functions in a century-long eddying global ocean simulation

  • Mathew Maltrud
  • Frank Bryan
  • Synte Peacock
Open Access
Original Article


Results are presented from a century-long 1/10° global ocean simulation that included a suite of age-related passive tracers. In particular, an ensemble of five global Boundary Impulse Response functions (BIRs, which are statistically related to the more fundamental Transit Time Distributions, TTDs) was included to quantify the character of the TTD when mesoscale eddies are explicitly simulated rather than parameterized. We also seek to characterize the level of variability in water mass ventilation timescales arising from eddy motions. The statistics of the BIR timeseries are described, and it is shown that the greatest variability occurs at early times, followed by a remarkable conformity between ensemble members at longer timescales. The statistics of the first moment of the BIRs are presented, and the upper-ocean spatial distribution of the standard deviation of the first moment of the BIRs discussed. It is shown that variations in the BIR first moment with respect to the ensemble average are typically only a few percent, and that the variability slightly decreases with increasing ensemble size, implying that only a few ensemble members may be necessary for a reasonable estimate of the TTD. The completeness of the estimated TTD, i.e., the degree to which the century long BIRs capture the range of global ocean ventilation timescales is discussed, and the potential for extrapolation of the BIR to longer times is briefly explored. Several regional BIRs were also simulated in order to quantify the relative abundance of fluid parcels that originate in specific geographical locations.


Modeling Ocean circulation Tracers Timescales 



M. M. was supported by the Department of Energy Office of Science Climate Change Prediction Program. Participation of F. B. and S. P. was supported by the National Science Foundation by its sponsorship of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The simulation was performed at the National Center for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory with computer time awarded under the INCITE program, and at the National Center for Atmospheric Research Computational and Information Systems Laboratory.

Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Los Alamos National LaboratoryLos AlamosUSA
  2. 2.National Center for Atmospheric ResearchBoulderUSA

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