Four-dimensional variational data assimilation is applied to a regional forecast model as part of the development of a new data assimilation system at the National Meteorological Center (NMC). The assimilation employs an operational version of the NMC's new regional forecast model defined in eta vertical coordinates, and data used are operationally produced optimal interpolation (OI) analyses (using the first guess from the NMC's global spectral model), available every 3 h. Humidity and parameterized processes are not included in the adjoint model integration. The calculation of gradients by the adjoint model is approximate since the forecast model is used in its full-physics operational form. All experiments are over a 12-h assimilation period with subsequent 48-h forecast. Three different types of assimilation experiments are performed:
adjustment of initial conditions only (standard “adjoint” approach),
adjustment of a correction to the model equations only (variational continuous assimilation), and
simultaneous or sequential adjustment of both initial conditions and the correction term.
Results indicate significantly better results when the correction term is included in the assimilation. It is shown, for a single case, that the new technique [experiment (c)] is able to produce a forecast better than the current conventional OI assimilation. It is very important to note that these results are obtained with an approximate gradient, calculated from a simplified adjoint model. Thus, it may be possible to perform an operational four-dimensional variational data assimilation of realistic forecast models, even before more complex adjoint models are developed. Also, our results suggest that it may be possible to reduce the large computational cost of assimilation by using only a few iterations of the minimization algorithm. This fast convergence is encouraging from the prospective of operational use.