The International Research Institute for Climate Prediction (IRI) net assessment seasonal temperature and precipitation forecasts are evaluated for the 4-yr period from October–December 1997 to October–December 2001. These probabilistic forecasts represent the human distillation of seasonal climate predictions from various sources. The ranked probability skill score (RPSS) serves as the verification measure. The evaluation is offered as time-averaged spatial maps of the RPSS as well as area-averaged time series. A key element of this evaluation is the examination of the extent to which the consolidation of several predictions, accomplished here subjectively by the forecasters, contributes to or detracts from the forecast skill possible from any individual prediction tool.
Overall, the skills of the net assessment forecasts for both temperature and precipitation are positive throughout the 1997–2001 period. The skill may have been enhanced during the peak of the 1997/98 El Niño, particularly for tropical precipitation, although widespread positive skill exists even at times of weak forcing from the tropical Pacific. The temporally averaged RPSS for the net assessment temperature forecasts appears lower than that for the AGCMs. Over time, however, the IRI forecast skill is more consistently positive than that of the AGCMs. The IRI precipitation forecasts generally have lower skill than the temperature forecasts, but the forecast probabilities for precipitation are found to be appropriate to the frequency of the observed outcomes, and thus reliable. Over many regions where the precipitation variability is known to be potentially predictable, the net assessment precipitation forecasts exhibit more spatially coherent areas of positive skill than most, if not all, prediction tools. On average, the IRI net assessment forecasts appear to perform better than any of the individual objective prediction tools.
International Research Institute for Climate Prediction, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, New York