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An Improved Method for Analyzing Sparse and Irregularly Distributed SST Data on a Regular Grid: The Tropical Pacific Ocean

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  • 1 NOAA/NWS/NCEP/CPC, Camp Springs, Maryland
  • | 2 Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
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Abstract

An improved method for interpolating sparsely sampled climatological data onto a regular grid is shown. The method uses the spatial and temporal covariance of the field, along with the sparse data, to fill the full grid. This improves on similar methods that have recently been developed by eliminating the development of features that are not sufficiently supported by the data (i.e., overfitting). Statistical tests are used to tune the method to represent as much variability as the spatial–temporal information will support without overfitting. The method is further improved by a data-checking procedure that detects and removes suspect data. The method is developed and evaluated by interpolating tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) monthly anomalies to a regular grid for the 1856–1995 period. Ship data averaged to 5° squares are used as input and are interpolated to a complete 1° grid. Comparing the results to interpolations using other methods shows this method’s quantitative improvements where satellite data are available for validation. Comparisons in the presatellite era show sharper and stronger anomaly patterns with this method, compared to another method developed for use with sparse data. Also shown are several periods when data are so sparse that only very weak SST anomalies may be reliably reconstructed in the tropical Pacific (i.e., before 1870 and 1915–25). In future research, the global SST and possibly other climatological fields will be gridded using improved methods.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Thomas M. Smith, Analysis Branch, Climate Prediction Center, National Centers for Environmental Prediction, World Weather Building, 5200 Auth Road, Room 605, W/NP52, Camp Springs, MD 20746.

Email: wd52ts@sgi25.wwb.noaa.gov

Abstract

An improved method for interpolating sparsely sampled climatological data onto a regular grid is shown. The method uses the spatial and temporal covariance of the field, along with the sparse data, to fill the full grid. This improves on similar methods that have recently been developed by eliminating the development of features that are not sufficiently supported by the data (i.e., overfitting). Statistical tests are used to tune the method to represent as much variability as the spatial–temporal information will support without overfitting. The method is further improved by a data-checking procedure that detects and removes suspect data. The method is developed and evaluated by interpolating tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) monthly anomalies to a regular grid for the 1856–1995 period. Ship data averaged to 5° squares are used as input and are interpolated to a complete 1° grid. Comparing the results to interpolations using other methods shows this method’s quantitative improvements where satellite data are available for validation. Comparisons in the presatellite era show sharper and stronger anomaly patterns with this method, compared to another method developed for use with sparse data. Also shown are several periods when data are so sparse that only very weak SST anomalies may be reliably reconstructed in the tropical Pacific (i.e., before 1870 and 1915–25). In future research, the global SST and possibly other climatological fields will be gridded using improved methods.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Thomas M. Smith, Analysis Branch, Climate Prediction Center, National Centers for Environmental Prediction, World Weather Building, 5200 Auth Road, Room 605, W/NP52, Camp Springs, MD 20746.

Email: wd52ts@sgi25.wwb.noaa.gov

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