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Verification of the ECMWF Wave Forecasting System against Buoy and Altimeter Data

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  • 1 European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Reading, United Kingdom
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Abstract

The present status of ocean wave modeling at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) is reviewed. Ocean waves are forecasted globally up to 10 days by means of the Wave Model (WAM), which is driven by 10-m winds from the ECMWF atmospheric model. Initial conditions are provided by assimilation of ERS-1 data into the first-guess wave field.

The analyzed wave height and peak period field are verified against buoy data and show a considerable improvement compared to verification results of a decade ago. This is confirmed by a comparison of first-guess wave height against ERS-1 altimeter data. The main reasons for this improvement are (i) the higher quality of ECMWF winds compared to a decade ago, (ii) the improved physics of the WAM model, and (iii) the assimilation of ERS-1 data.

The forecast skill of the ECMWF wave forecasting system is also studied by comparing forecasts with buoy data and verifying analysis. Error growth in forecast wave height is less rapid than in forecast wind speed. However, considerable positive mean errors in forecast wave height are found, suggesting a too active atmospheric model in later stages of the forecast. Nevertheless, judging from anomaly correlation scores, the wave forecast seems to be useful up to day 5 in the forecast in the Northern Hemisphere. Since the wave forecast depends in a sensitive manner on the wind forecast, this confirms the high quality of ECMWF forecasts near the surface.

Finally, promising ways of improving the wave forecast are also discussed, and, as an example, the positive impact three-dimensional variational assimilation in the atmospheric model has on the wave product is also mentioned.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Peter A. E. M. Janssen, ECMWF, Shinfield Park, Reading RG2 9AX, United Kingdom.

Email: P.janssen@ecmwf.int

Abstract

The present status of ocean wave modeling at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) is reviewed. Ocean waves are forecasted globally up to 10 days by means of the Wave Model (WAM), which is driven by 10-m winds from the ECMWF atmospheric model. Initial conditions are provided by assimilation of ERS-1 data into the first-guess wave field.

The analyzed wave height and peak period field are verified against buoy data and show a considerable improvement compared to verification results of a decade ago. This is confirmed by a comparison of first-guess wave height against ERS-1 altimeter data. The main reasons for this improvement are (i) the higher quality of ECMWF winds compared to a decade ago, (ii) the improved physics of the WAM model, and (iii) the assimilation of ERS-1 data.

The forecast skill of the ECMWF wave forecasting system is also studied by comparing forecasts with buoy data and verifying analysis. Error growth in forecast wave height is less rapid than in forecast wind speed. However, considerable positive mean errors in forecast wave height are found, suggesting a too active atmospheric model in later stages of the forecast. Nevertheless, judging from anomaly correlation scores, the wave forecast seems to be useful up to day 5 in the forecast in the Northern Hemisphere. Since the wave forecast depends in a sensitive manner on the wind forecast, this confirms the high quality of ECMWF forecasts near the surface.

Finally, promising ways of improving the wave forecast are also discussed, and, as an example, the positive impact three-dimensional variational assimilation in the atmospheric model has on the wave product is also mentioned.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Peter A. E. M. Janssen, ECMWF, Shinfield Park, Reading RG2 9AX, United Kingdom.

Email: P.janssen@ecmwf.int

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