A finite element model for the ocean circulation driven by wind and atmospheric heat flux

Carlos A.A. Carbonel H, Augusto C.N.R. Galeão

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A finite element model for solving ocean circulation forced by winds and atmospheric heat fluxes is presented. It is vertically integrated 1 1/2 layer model which solves the motion and continuity hydrodynamic equations coupled with the advection-diffusion transport equation for temperature. A space-time Petrov-Galerkin formulation is used to minimize the undesirable numerical spurious oscillation effects of unresolved boundary layers solution of classical Galerkin method. The model is employed to simulate the circulation of the eastern South Pacific Ocean represented by a mesh covering the area between the equator and 30°S and between the 70°W to 100°W. Monthly climatological data are used to determine the wind and heat fluxes forcing functions of the model. The model simulates the main features of observed sea surface temperature (SST) pattern during the summer months showing the upwelling along the coastal boundary with currents oriented northwestward and the presence of southward flows and warm water intrusion in offshore side. The calculated SST fields are compared with the mean observed SST showing that the coastal processes and the interaction with the equatorial band are physically better resolved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-53
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the Brazilian Society of Mechanical Sciences and Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010


  • Atmospheric forcing
  • Ocean circulation model
  • Stabilized finite element formulation


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