Equatorial Waves and the Skill of NCEP and ECMWF Numerical Weather Prediction Systems

Juliana Dias Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, and NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

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Maria Gehne Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, and NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

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George N. Kiladis NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

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Naoko Sakaeda School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

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Peter Bechtold European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Reading, United Kingdom

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Thomas Haiden European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Reading, United Kingdom

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Abstract

Despite decades of research on the role of moist convective processes in large-scale tropical dynamics, tropical forecast skill in operational models is still deficient when compared to the extratropics, even at short lead times. Here we compare tropical and Northern Hemisphere (NH) forecast skill for quantitative precipitation forecasts (QPFs) in the NCEP Global Forecast System (GFS) and ECMWF Integrated Forecast System (IFS) during January 2015–March 2016. Results reveal that, in general, initial conditions are reasonably well estimated in both forecast systems, as indicated by relatively good skill scores for the 6–24-h forecasts. However, overall, tropical QPF forecasts in both systems are not considered useful by typical metrics much beyond 4 days. To quantify the relationship between QPF and dynamical skill, space–time spectra and coherence of rainfall and divergence fields are calculated. It is shown that while tropical variability is too weak in both models, the IFS is more skillful in propagating tropical waves for longer lead times. In agreement with past studies demonstrating that extratropical skill is partially drawn from the tropics, a comparison of daily skill in the tropics versus NH suggests that in both models NH forecast skill at lead times beyond day 3 is enhanced by tropical skill in the first couple of days. As shown in previous work, this study indicates that the differences in physics used in each system, in particular, how moist convective processes are coupled to the large-scale flow through these parameterizations, appear as a major source of tropical forecast errors.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/MWR-D-17-0362.s1.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Juliana Dias, juliana.dias@noaa.gov

Abstract

Despite decades of research on the role of moist convective processes in large-scale tropical dynamics, tropical forecast skill in operational models is still deficient when compared to the extratropics, even at short lead times. Here we compare tropical and Northern Hemisphere (NH) forecast skill for quantitative precipitation forecasts (QPFs) in the NCEP Global Forecast System (GFS) and ECMWF Integrated Forecast System (IFS) during January 2015–March 2016. Results reveal that, in general, initial conditions are reasonably well estimated in both forecast systems, as indicated by relatively good skill scores for the 6–24-h forecasts. However, overall, tropical QPF forecasts in both systems are not considered useful by typical metrics much beyond 4 days. To quantify the relationship between QPF and dynamical skill, space–time spectra and coherence of rainfall and divergence fields are calculated. It is shown that while tropical variability is too weak in both models, the IFS is more skillful in propagating tropical waves for longer lead times. In agreement with past studies demonstrating that extratropical skill is partially drawn from the tropics, a comparison of daily skill in the tropics versus NH suggests that in both models NH forecast skill at lead times beyond day 3 is enhanced by tropical skill in the first couple of days. As shown in previous work, this study indicates that the differences in physics used in each system, in particular, how moist convective processes are coupled to the large-scale flow through these parameterizations, appear as a major source of tropical forecast errors.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/MWR-D-17-0362.s1.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Juliana Dias, juliana.dias@noaa.gov

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