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Prediction Skill and Bias of Tropical Pacific Sea Surface Temperatures in the NCEP Climate Forecast System Version 2

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  • 1 Climate Prediction Center, NOAA, College Park, Maryland
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Abstract

The prediction skill and bias of tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) in the retrospective forecasts of the Climate Forecast System, version 2 (CFSv2), of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction were examined. The CFSv2 was initialized from the Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR) over 1982–2010. There was a systematic cold bias in the central–eastern equatorial Pacific during summer/fall. The cold bias in the Niño-3.4 index was about −2.5°C in summer/fall before 1999 but suddenly changed to −1°C around 1999, related to a sudden shift in the trade winds and equatorial subsurface temperature in the CFSR.

The SST anomaly (SSTA) was computed by removing model climatology for the periods 1982–98 and 1999–2010 separately. The standard deviation (STD) of forecast SSTA agreed well with that of observations in 1982–98, but in 1999–2010 it was about 200% too strong in the eastern Pacific and 50% too weak near the date line during winter/spring. The shift in STD bias was partially related to change of ENSO characteristics: central Pacific (CP) El Niños were more frequent than eastern Pacific (EP) El Niños after 2000. The composites analysis shows that the CFSv2 had a tendency to delay the onset phase of the EP El Niños in the 1980s and 1990s but predicted their decay phases well. In contrast, the CFSv2 predicted the onset phase of the CP El Niños well but prolonged their decay phase. The hit rate for both El Niño and La Niña was lower in the later period than in the early period, and the false alarm for La Niña increased appreciably from the early to the later period.

Corresponding author address: Yan Xue, NOAA/Center for Weather and Climate Prediction, 5830 University Research Court, Room 3005, College Park, MD 20740. E-mail: yan.xue@noaa.gov

Abstract

The prediction skill and bias of tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) in the retrospective forecasts of the Climate Forecast System, version 2 (CFSv2), of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction were examined. The CFSv2 was initialized from the Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR) over 1982–2010. There was a systematic cold bias in the central–eastern equatorial Pacific during summer/fall. The cold bias in the Niño-3.4 index was about −2.5°C in summer/fall before 1999 but suddenly changed to −1°C around 1999, related to a sudden shift in the trade winds and equatorial subsurface temperature in the CFSR.

The SST anomaly (SSTA) was computed by removing model climatology for the periods 1982–98 and 1999–2010 separately. The standard deviation (STD) of forecast SSTA agreed well with that of observations in 1982–98, but in 1999–2010 it was about 200% too strong in the eastern Pacific and 50% too weak near the date line during winter/spring. The shift in STD bias was partially related to change of ENSO characteristics: central Pacific (CP) El Niños were more frequent than eastern Pacific (EP) El Niños after 2000. The composites analysis shows that the CFSv2 had a tendency to delay the onset phase of the EP El Niños in the 1980s and 1990s but predicted their decay phases well. In contrast, the CFSv2 predicted the onset phase of the CP El Niños well but prolonged their decay phase. The hit rate for both El Niño and La Niña was lower in the later period than in the early period, and the false alarm for La Niña increased appreciably from the early to the later period.

Corresponding author address: Yan Xue, NOAA/Center for Weather and Climate Prediction, 5830 University Research Court, Room 3005, College Park, MD 20740. E-mail: yan.xue@noaa.gov
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