The sensitivity of the dynamics of a tropical Pacific Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) general circulation model (MITgcm) to the surface forcing fields and to the horizontal resolution is analyzed. During runs covering the period 1992-2002, two different sets of surface forcing boundary conditions are used, obtained 1) from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction/National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCEP/NCAR) reanalysis project and 2) from the Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean (ECCO) assimilation consortium. The "ECCO forcing" is the "NCEP forcing" adjusted by a state estimation procedure using the MITgcm with a 1° × 1° global grid and the adjoint method assimilating a multivariate global ocean dataset. The skill of the model is evaluated against ocean observations available in situ and from satellites. The model domain is limited to the tropical Pacific, with open boundaries located along 26°S, 26°N, and in the Indonesian throughflow. To account for large-scale changes of the ocean circulation, the model is nested in the global time-varying ocean state provided by the ECCO consortium on a 1° grid. Increasing the spatial resolution to 1/3° and using the ECCO forcing fields significantly improves many aspects of the circulation but produces overly strong currents in the western model domain. Increasing the resolution to 1/6° does not yield further improvements of model results. Using the ECCO heat and freshwater fluxes in place of NCEP products leads to improved time-mean model skill (i.e., reduced biases) over most of the model domain, underlining the important role of adjusted heat and freshwater fluxes for improving model representations of the tropical Pacific. Combinations of ECCO and NCEP wind forcing fields can improve certain aspects of the model solutions, but neither ECCO nor NCEP winds show clear overall superiority.
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