High Clouds over Oceans in the ECMWF 15- and 45-Yr Reanalyses

Frédéric Chevallier European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Reading, United Kingdom

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Graeme Kelly European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Reading, United Kingdom

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Adrian J. Simmons European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Reading, United Kingdom

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Sakari Uppala European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Reading, United Kingdom

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Angeles Hernandez European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Reading, United Kingdom

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Abstract

The reanalysis programs of numerical weather prediction (NWP) centers provide global, comprehensive descriptions of the atmosphere and of the earth’s surface over long periods of time. The high realism of their representation of key NWP parameters, like temperature and winds, implies some realism for less emblematic parameters, such as cloud cover, but the degree of this realism needs to be documented.

This study aims to evaluate the high clouds over open oceans in the ECMWF 15- and 45-yr reanalyses. The assessment is based on a new 23-yr climatology of monthly frequencies of high-cloud occurrence retrieved from the infrared radiances measured by operational polar satellites. It is complemented by data from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project.

It is shown that the 45-yr ECMWF reanalysis dramatically improves on the previous 15-yr reanalysis for the realism of seasonal and interannual variations in high clouds, despite remaining systematic errors. More than 60% of the observed anomalies during the January 1979–February 2002 period over large oceanic basins are captured by the latest reanalysis. However the realism of the analyses in the areas and in the years with sparse observations appears to be poor. Consequently, the interannual variations may not be reliable before January 1979 in most parts of the world. Possible improvements of the handling of assimilated satellite observations before and after this date are suggested.

* Current affiliation: Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, Gif sur Yvette, France

Corresponding author address: Dr. F. Chevallier, Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, Bat 701, L’Orme des Merisiers, 91191 Gif sur Yvette Cedex, France. Email: frederic.chevallier@cea.fr

Abstract

The reanalysis programs of numerical weather prediction (NWP) centers provide global, comprehensive descriptions of the atmosphere and of the earth’s surface over long periods of time. The high realism of their representation of key NWP parameters, like temperature and winds, implies some realism for less emblematic parameters, such as cloud cover, but the degree of this realism needs to be documented.

This study aims to evaluate the high clouds over open oceans in the ECMWF 15- and 45-yr reanalyses. The assessment is based on a new 23-yr climatology of monthly frequencies of high-cloud occurrence retrieved from the infrared radiances measured by operational polar satellites. It is complemented by data from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project.

It is shown that the 45-yr ECMWF reanalysis dramatically improves on the previous 15-yr reanalysis for the realism of seasonal and interannual variations in high clouds, despite remaining systematic errors. More than 60% of the observed anomalies during the January 1979–February 2002 period over large oceanic basins are captured by the latest reanalysis. However the realism of the analyses in the areas and in the years with sparse observations appears to be poor. Consequently, the interannual variations may not be reliable before January 1979 in most parts of the world. Possible improvements of the handling of assimilated satellite observations before and after this date are suggested.

* Current affiliation: Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, Gif sur Yvette, France

Corresponding author address: Dr. F. Chevallier, Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, Bat 701, L’Orme des Merisiers, 91191 Gif sur Yvette Cedex, France. Email: frederic.chevallier@cea.fr

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