Marine hydrodynamic models combine several different hydrodynamic modeling approaches with a wide range of simplifications, model formulations, and potentially coupled interlocking components. All hydrodynamic models employ the Navier-Stokes equations, but may have very different horizontal grid configurations, which have strengths and weaknesses depending upon the scale and geomorphology of the application. More profound are the differences that result from the choice of the vertical coordinate system, though new hybrid approaches blur this distinction. Model resolutions are improving, but turbulence parametrization is still required at small scales, which critically influences stratification, ecosystem and biogeochemical calculations because these parametrizations determine mixing and therefore the thermal and salinity structure of the model as well as mean light for ecological applications. Any model is only as good as its forcing and boundary conditions, and this remains a challenge for ocean and coastal modeling and ocean observation systems. Surface fields of wind stress, radiation, and precipitation remain a large source of model error.

Models today are used in a wide range of applications, from short-term forecasts of currents and waves, to interannual and longer timescale climate forecasting, and to simulating the environment for ecological processes. These applications are used to answer fundamental questions about basic science as well as to provide forecasts for business and safety applications. They are increasingly being used to manage natural and ecological resources.

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