Seamless Precipitation Prediction Skill in the Tropics and Extratropics from a Global Model

Hongyan Zhu Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Melbourne, Australia

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Matthew C. Wheeler Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Melbourne, Australia

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Adam H. Sobel Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, New York, New York

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Debra Hudson Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Melbourne, Australia

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Abstract

The skill with which a coupled ocean–atmosphere model is able to predict precipitation over a range of time scales (days to months) is analyzed. For a fair comparison across the seamless range of scales, the verification is performed using data averaged over time windows equal in length to the lead time. At a lead time of 1 day, skill is greatest in the extratropics around 40°–60° latitude and lowest around 20°, and has a secondary local maximum close to the equator. The extratropical skill at this short range is highest in the winter hemisphere, presumably due to the higher predictability of winter baroclinic systems. The local equatorial maximum comes mostly from the Pacific Ocean, and thus appears to be mostly from El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). As both the lead time and averaging window are simultaneously increased, the extratropical skill drops rapidly with lead time, while the equatorial maximum remains approximately constant, causing the equatorial skill to exceed the extratropical at leads of greater than 4 days in austral summer and 1 week in boreal summer. At leads longer than 2 weeks, the extratropical skill flattens out or increases, but remains below the equatorial values. Comparisons with persistence confirm that the model beats persistence for most leads and latitudes, including for the equatorial Pacific where persistence is high. The results are consistent with the view that extratropical predictability is mostly derived from synoptic-scale atmospheric dynamics, while tropical predictability is primarily derived from the response of moist convection to slowly varying forcing such as from ENSO.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Matthew Wheeler, CAWCR/Bureau of Meteorology, GPO Box 1289, Melbourne, VIC 3001, Australia. E-mail: m.wheeler@bom.gov.au

Abstract

The skill with which a coupled ocean–atmosphere model is able to predict precipitation over a range of time scales (days to months) is analyzed. For a fair comparison across the seamless range of scales, the verification is performed using data averaged over time windows equal in length to the lead time. At a lead time of 1 day, skill is greatest in the extratropics around 40°–60° latitude and lowest around 20°, and has a secondary local maximum close to the equator. The extratropical skill at this short range is highest in the winter hemisphere, presumably due to the higher predictability of winter baroclinic systems. The local equatorial maximum comes mostly from the Pacific Ocean, and thus appears to be mostly from El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). As both the lead time and averaging window are simultaneously increased, the extratropical skill drops rapidly with lead time, while the equatorial maximum remains approximately constant, causing the equatorial skill to exceed the extratropical at leads of greater than 4 days in austral summer and 1 week in boreal summer. At leads longer than 2 weeks, the extratropical skill flattens out or increases, but remains below the equatorial values. Comparisons with persistence confirm that the model beats persistence for most leads and latitudes, including for the equatorial Pacific where persistence is high. The results are consistent with the view that extratropical predictability is mostly derived from synoptic-scale atmospheric dynamics, while tropical predictability is primarily derived from the response of moist convection to slowly varying forcing such as from ENSO.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Matthew Wheeler, CAWCR/Bureau of Meteorology, GPO Box 1289, Melbourne, VIC 3001, Australia. E-mail: m.wheeler@bom.gov.au
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