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Statistical Postprocessing of Ensemble Precipitation Forecasts by Fitting Censored, Shifted Gamma Distributions

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  • 1 University of Colorado, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, and NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado
  • | 2 Physical Sciences Division, NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

A parametric statistical postprocessing method is presented that transforms raw (and frequently biased) ensemble forecasts from the Global Ensemble Forecast System (GEFS) into reliable predictive probability distributions for precipitation accumulations. Exploratory analysis based on 12 years of reforecast data and ⅛° climatology-calibrated precipitation analyses shows that censored, shifted gamma distributions can well approximate the conditional distribution of observed precipitation accumulations given the ensemble forecasts. A nonhomogeneous regression model is set up to link the parameters of this distribution to ensemble statistics that summarize the mean and spread of predicted precipitation amounts within a certain neighborhood of the location of interest, and in addition the predicted mean of precipitable water. The proposed method is demonstrated with precipitation reforecasts over the conterminous United States using common metrics such as Brier skill scores and reliability diagrams. It yields probabilistic forecasts that are reliable, highly skillful, and sharper than the previously demonstrated analog procedure. In situations with limited predictability, increasing the size of the neighborhood within which ensemble forecasts are considered as predictors can further improve forecast skill. It is found, however, that even a parametric postprocessing approach crucially relies on the availability of a sufficiently large training dataset.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/MWR-D-15-0061.s1.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Michael Scheuerer, Physical Sciences Division, NOAA/ESRL, 325 Broadway, R/PSD1, Boulder, CO 80305-3337. E-mail: michael.scheuerer@noaa.gov

Abstract

A parametric statistical postprocessing method is presented that transforms raw (and frequently biased) ensemble forecasts from the Global Ensemble Forecast System (GEFS) into reliable predictive probability distributions for precipitation accumulations. Exploratory analysis based on 12 years of reforecast data and ⅛° climatology-calibrated precipitation analyses shows that censored, shifted gamma distributions can well approximate the conditional distribution of observed precipitation accumulations given the ensemble forecasts. A nonhomogeneous regression model is set up to link the parameters of this distribution to ensemble statistics that summarize the mean and spread of predicted precipitation amounts within a certain neighborhood of the location of interest, and in addition the predicted mean of precipitable water. The proposed method is demonstrated with precipitation reforecasts over the conterminous United States using common metrics such as Brier skill scores and reliability diagrams. It yields probabilistic forecasts that are reliable, highly skillful, and sharper than the previously demonstrated analog procedure. In situations with limited predictability, increasing the size of the neighborhood within which ensemble forecasts are considered as predictors can further improve forecast skill. It is found, however, that even a parametric postprocessing approach crucially relies on the availability of a sufficiently large training dataset.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/MWR-D-15-0061.s1.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Michael Scheuerer, Physical Sciences Division, NOAA/ESRL, 325 Broadway, R/PSD1, Boulder, CO 80305-3337. E-mail: michael.scheuerer@noaa.gov

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