Forecasting and hindcasting waves with the SWAN model in the Southern California Bight Academic Article uri icon


  • The Naval Research Laboratory created a wave forecasting system in support of the Nearshore Canyon Experiment (NCEX) field program. The outer nest of this prediction system encompassed the Southern California Bight. This forecasting system is described in this paper, with analysis of results via comparison to the extensive buoy network in the region. There are a number of potential errors, two of which are poor resolution of islands in the Bight-which have a strong impact on nearshore wave climate-and the use of the stationary assumption for computations. These two problems have straightforward solutions, but the solutions are computationally expensive, so an operational user must carefully consider their cost. The authors study the impact of these two types of error (relative to other errors, such as error in boundary forcing) using several hindcasts performed after the completion of NCEX. It is found that, with buoy observations as ground truth, the stationary assumption leads to a modest increase in root-mean-square error; this is due to relatively poor prediction of the timing of swell arrivals and local sea growth/decay. The model results are found to be sensitive to the resolution of islands; however, coarse resolution does not incur an appreciable penalty in terms of error statistics computed via comparison to buoy observations, suggesting that other errors dominate. Inaccuracy in representation of the local atmospheric forcing likely has a significant impact on wave model error. Perhaps most importantly, the accuracy of directional distribution of wave energy at the open ocean boundaries appears to be a critical limitation on the accuracy of the model-data comparisons inside the Bight.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Rogers, W. E., Kaihatu, J. M., Hsu, L., Jensen, R. E., Dykes, J. D., & Holland, K. T.

citation count

  • 106

complete list of authors

  • Rogers, W Erick||Kaihatu, James M||Hsu, Larry||Jensen, Robert E||Dykes, James D||Holland, K Todd

publication date

  • January 2007