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Rolf H. Reichle, Randal D. Koster, Gabriëlle J. M. De Lannoy, Barton A. Forman, Qing Liu, Sarith P. P. Mahanama, and Ally Touré

Abstract

The Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) is a state-of-the-art reanalysis that provides, in addition to atmospheric fields, global estimates of soil moisture, latent heat flux, snow, and runoff for 1979–present. This study introduces a supplemental and improved set of land surface hydrological fields (“MERRA-Land”) generated by rerunning a revised version of the land component of the MERRA system. Specifically, the MERRA-Land estimates benefit from corrections to the precipitation forcing with the Global Precipitation Climatology Project pentad product (version 2.1) and from revised parameter values in the rainfall interception model, changes that effectively correct for known limitations in the MERRA surface meteorological forcings. The skill (defined as the correlation coefficient of the anomaly time series) in land surface hydrological fields from MERRA and MERRA-Land is assessed here against observations and compared to the skill of the state-of-the-art ECMWF Re-Analysis-Interim (ERA-I). MERRA-Land and ERA-I root zone soil moisture skills (against in situ observations at 85 U.S. stations) are comparable and significantly greater than that of MERRA. Throughout the Northern Hemisphere, MERRA and MERRA-Land agree reasonably well with in situ snow depth measurements (from 583 stations) and with snow water equivalent from an independent analysis. Runoff skill (against naturalized stream flow observations from 18 U.S. basins) of MERRA and MERRA-Land is typically higher than that of ERA-I. With a few exceptions, the MERRA-Land data appear more accurate than the original MERRA estimates and are thus recommended for those interested in using MERRA output for land surface hydrological studies.

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Sun Wong, Eric J. Fetzer, Brian H. Kahn, Baijun Tian, Bjorn H. Lambrigtsen, and Hengchun Ye

Abstract

The authors investigate if atmospheric water vapor from remote sensing retrievals obtained from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder/Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AIRS) and the water vapor budget from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) Modern Era Retrospective-analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) are physically consistent with independently synthesized precipitation data from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) or the Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP) and evaporation data from the Goddard Satellite-based Surface Turbulent Fluxes (GSSTF). The atmospheric total water vapor sink (Σ) is estimated from AIRS water vapor retrievals with MERRA winds (AIRS–MERRA Σ) as well as directly from the MERRA water vapor budget (MERRA–MERRA Σ). The global geographical distributions as well as the regional wavelet amplitude spectra of Σ are then compared with those of TRMM or GPCP precipitation minus GSSTF surface evaporation (TRMM–GSSTF and GPCP–GSSTF PE, respectively). The AIRS–MERRA and MERRA–MERRA Σs reproduce the main large-scale patterns of global PE, including the locations and variations of the ITCZ, summertime monsoons, and midlatitude storm tracks in both hemispheres. The spectra of regional temporal variations in Σ are generally consistent with those of observed PE, including the annual and semiannual cycles, and intraseasonal variations. Both AIRS–MERRA and MERRA–MERRA Σs have smaller amplitudes for the intraseasonal variations over the tropical oceans. The MERRA PE has spectra similar to that of MERRA–MERRA Σ in most of the regions except in tropical Africa. The averaged TRMM–GSSTF and GPCP–GSSTF PE over the ocean are more negative compared to the AIRS–MERRA, MERRA–MERRA Σs, and MERRA PE.

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Michael G. Bosilovich, Franklin R. Robertson, and Junye Chen

Abstract

Reanalyses, retrospectively analyzing observations over climatological time scales, represent a merger between satellite observations and models to provide globally continuous data and have improved over several generations. Balancing the earth’s global water and energy budgets has been a focus of research for more than two decades. Models tend to their own climate while remotely sensed observations have had varying degrees of uncertainty. This study evaluates the latest NASA reanalysis, the Modern Era Retrospective-Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA), from a global water and energy cycles perspective, to place it in context of previous work and demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses.

MERRA was configured to provide complete budgets in its output diagnostics, including the incremental analysis update (IAU), the term that represents the observations influence on the analyzed states, alongside the physical flux terms. Precipitation in reanalyses is typically sensitive to the observational analysis. For MERRA, the global mean precipitation bias and spatial variability are more comparable to merged satellite observations [the Global Precipitation and Climatology Project (GPCP) and Climate Prediction Center Merged Analysis of Precipitation (CMAP)] than previous generations of reanalyses. MERRA ocean evaporation also has a much lower value, which is comparable to independently derived estimate datasets. The global energy budget shows that MERRA cloud effects may be generally weak, leading to excess shortwave radiation reaching the ocean surface.

Evaluating the MERRA time series of budget terms, a significant change occurs that does not appear to be represented in observations. In 1999, the global analysis increments of water vapor changes sign from negative to positive and primarily lead to more oceanic precipitation. This change is coincident with the beginning of Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU) radiance assimilation. Previous and current reanalyses all exhibit some sensitivity to perturbations in the observation record, and this remains a significant research topic for reanalysis development. The effect of the changing observing system is evaluated for MERRA water and energy budget terms.

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Michael A. Brunke, Zhuo Wang, Xubin Zeng, Michael Bosilovich, and Chung-Lin Shie

Abstract

Ocean surface turbulent fluxes play an important role in the energy and water cycles of the atmosphere–ocean coupled system, and several flux products have become available in recent years. Here, turbulent fluxes from 6 widely used reanalyses, 4 satellite-derived flux products, and 2 combined product are evaluated by comparison with direct covariance latent heat (LH) and sensible heat (SH) fluxes and inertial-dissipation wind stresses measured from 12 cruises over the tropics and mid- and high latitudes. The biases range from −3.0 to 20.2 W m−2 for LH flux, from −1.4 to 6.0 W m−2 for SH flux, and from −7.6 to 7.9 × 10−3 N m−2 for wind stress. These biases are small for moderate wind speeds but diverge for strong wind speeds (>10 m s−1). The total flux biases are then further evaluated by dividing them into uncertainties due to errors in the bulk variables and the residual uncertainty. The bulk-variable-caused uncertainty dominates many products’ SH flux and wind stress biases. The biases in the bulk variables that contribute to this uncertainty can be quite high depending on the cruise and the variable. On the basis of a ranking of each product’s flux, it is found that the Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) is among the “best performing” for all three fluxes. Also, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) interim reanalysis (ERA-Interim) and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction–Department of Energy (NCEP–DOE) reanalysis are among the best performing for two of the three fluxes. Of the satellite-derived products, version 2b of the Goddard Satellite-Based Surface Turbulent Fluxes (GSSTF2b) is among the best performing for two of the three fluxes. Also among the best performing for only one of the fluxes are the 40-yr ERA (ERA-40) and the combined product objectively analyzed air–sea fluxes (OAFlux). Direction for the future development of ocean surface flux datasets is also suggested.

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Franklin R. Robertson, Michael G. Bosilovich, Junye Chen, and Timothy L. Miller

Abstract

Like all reanalysis efforts, the Modern Era Retrospective-Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) must contend with an inhomogeneous observing network. Here the effects of the two most obvious observing system epoch changes, the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit-A (AMSU-A) series in late 1998 and, to a lesser extent, the earlier advent of the Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) in late 1987 are examined. These sensor changes affect model moisture and enthalpy increments and thus water and energy fluxes, since the latter result from model physics processes that respond sensitively to state variable forcing. Inclusion of the analysis increments in the MERRA dataset is a unique feature among reanalyses that facilitates understanding the relationships between analysis forcing and flux response.

In stepwise fashion in time, the vertically integrated global-mean moisture increments change sign from drying to moistening and heating increments drop nearly 15 W m−2 over the 30 plus years of the assimilated products. Regression of flux quantities on an El Niño–Southern Oscillation sea surface temperature (SST) index analysis reveals that this mode of climate variability dominates interannual signals and its leading expression is minimally affected by satellite observing system changes. Conversely, precipitation patterns and other fluxes influenced by SST changes associated with Pacific decadal variability (PDV) are significantly distorted. Observing system changes also induce a nonstationary component to the annual cycle signals.

Principal component regression is found useful for identifying artifacts produced by changes of satellite sensors and defining appropriate adjustments. After the adjustments are applied, the spurious flux trend components are greatly diminished. Time series of the adjusted precipitation and the Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP) data compare favorably on a global basis. The adjustments also provide a much better depiction of precipitation spatial trends associated with PDV-like forcing. The utility as well as associated drawbacks of this statistical adjustment and the prospects for future improvements of the methodology are discussed.

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Siegfried Schubert, Hailan Wang, and Max Suarez

Abstract

This study examines the nature of boreal summer subseasonal atmospheric variability based on the new NASA Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) for the period 1979–2010. An analysis of the June, July, and August subseasonal 250-hPa meridional υ-wind anomalies shows distinct Rossby wave–like structures that appear to be guided by the mean jets. On monthly subseasonal time scales, the leading waves [the first 10 rotated empirical orthogonal functions (REOFs) of the 250-hPa υ wind] explain about 50% of the Northern Hemisphere υ-wind variability and account for more than 30% (60%) of the precipitation (surface temperature) variability over a number of regions of the northern middle and high latitudes, including the U.S. northern Great Plains, parts of Canada, Europe, and Russia. The first REOF in particular consists of a Rossby wave that extends across northern Eurasia where it is a dominant contributor to monthly surface temperature and precipitation variability and played an important role in the 2003 European and 2010 Russian heat waves. While primarily subseasonal in nature, the Rossby waves can at times have a substantial seasonal mean component. This is exemplified by REOF 4, which played a major role in the development of the most intense anomalies of the U.S. 1988 drought (during June) and the 1993 flooding (during July), though differed in the latter event by also making an important contribution to the seasonal mean anomalies. A stationary wave model (SWM) is used to reproduce some of the basic features of the observed waves and provide insight into the nature of the forcing. In particular, the responses to a set of idealized forcing functions are used to map the optimal forcing patterns of the leading waves. Also, experiments to reproduce the observed waves with the SWM using MERRA-based estimates of the forcing indicate that the wave forcing is dominated by submonthly vorticity transients.

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Aaron D. Kennedy, Xiquan Dong, Baike Xi, Shaocheng Xie, Yunyan Zhang, and Junye Chen

Abstract

Atmospheric states from the Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) and the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) are compared with data from the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program (ARM) Southern Great Plains (SGP) site, including the ARM continuous forcing product and Cloud Modeling Best Estimate (CMBE) soundings, during the period 1999–2001 to understand their validity for single-column model (SCM) and cloud-resolving model (CRM) forcing datasets. Cloud fraction, precipitation, and radiation information are also compared to determine what errors exist within these reanalyses. For the atmospheric state, ARM continuous forcing and the reanalyses have good agreement with the CMBE sounding information, with biases generally within 0.5 K for temperature, 0.5 m s−1 for wind, and 5% for relative humidity. Larger disagreements occur in the upper troposphere (p < 300 hPa) for temperature, humidity, and zonal wind, and in the boundary layer (p > 800 hPa) for meridional wind and humidity. In these regions, larger errors may exist in derived forcing products. Significant differences exist for vertical pressure velocity, with the largest biases occurring during the spring upwelling and summer downwelling periods. Although NARR and MERRA share many resemblances to each other, ARM outperforms these reanalyses in terms of correlation with cloud fraction. Because the ARM forcing is constrained by observed precipitation that gives the adequate mass, heat, and moisture budgets, much of the precipitation (specifically during the late spring/early summer) is caused by smaller-scale forcing that is not captured by the reanalyses. While reanalysis-based forcing appears to be feasible for the majority of the year at this location, it may have limited usage during the late spring and early summer, when convection is common at the ARM SGP site. Both NARR and MERRA capture the seasonal variation of cloud fractions (CFs) observed by ARM radar–lidar and Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) with high correlations (0.92–0.78) but with negative biases of 14% and 3%, respectively. Compared to the ARM observations, MERRA shows better agreement for both shortwave (SW) and longwave (LW) fluxes except for LW-down (due to a negative bias in water vapor): NARR has significant positive bias for SW-down and negative bias for LW-down under clear-sky and all-sky conditions. The NARR biases result from a combination of too few clouds and a lack of sufficient extinction by aerosols and water vapor in the atmospheric column. The results presented here represent only one location for a limited period, and more comparisons at different locations and longer periods are needed.

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Nili Harnik, Judith Perlwitz, and Tiffany A. Shaw

Abstract

Downward wave coupling dominates the intraseasonal dynamical coupling between the stratosphere and troposphere in the Southern Hemisphere. The coupling occurs during late winter and spring when the stratospheric basic state forms a well-defined meridional waveguide, which is bounded above by a reflecting surface. This basic-state configuration is favorable for planetary wave reflection and guides the reflected waves back down to the troposphere, where they impact wave structures. In this study decadal changes in downward wave coupling are analyzed using the Modern Era Retrospective-Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) dataset.

A cross-spectral correlation analysis, applied to geopotential height fields, and a wave geometry diagnostic, applied to zonal-mean zonal wind and temperature data, are used to understand decadal changes in planetary wave propagation. It is found that downward wave 1 coupling from September to December has increased over the last three decades, owing to significant increases at the beginning and end of this 4-month period. The increased downward wave coupling is caused by both an earlier onset of the vertically bounded meridional waveguide configuration and a persistence of this configuration into December. The latter is associated with the observed delay in vortex breakup. The results point to an additional dynamical mechanism whereby the stratosphere has influenced the tropospheric climate in the Southern Hemisphere.

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David H. Bromwich, Julien P. Nicolas, and Andrew J. Monaghan

Abstract

This study evaluates the temporal variability of the Antarctic surface mass balance, approximated as precipitation minus evaporation (PE), and Southern Ocean precipitation in five global reanalyses during 1989–2009. The datasets consist of the NCEP/U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project 2 reanalysis (NCEP-2), the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) 25-year Reanalysis (JRA-25), ECMWF Interim Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim), NASA Modern Era Retrospective-Analysis for Research and Application (MERRA), and the Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR). Reanalyses are known to be prone to spurious trends and inhomogeneities caused by changes in the observing system, especially in the data-sparse high southern latitudes. The period of study has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of satellite observations used for data assimilation.

The large positive and statistically significant trends in mean Antarctic PE and mean Southern Ocean precipitation in NCEP-2, JRA-25, and MERRA are found to be largely spurious. The origin of these artifacts varies between reanalyses. Notably, a precipitation jump in MERRA in the late 1990s coincides with the start of the assimilation of radiances from the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU). ERA-Interim and CFSR do not exhibit any significant trends. However, the potential impact of the assimilation of rain-affected radiances in ERA-Interim and inhomogeneities in CFSR pressure fields over Antarctica cast some doubt on the reliability of these two datasets.

The authors conclude that ERA-Interim likely offers the most realistic depiction of precipitation changes in high southern latitudes during 1989–2009. The range of the trends in Antarctic PE among the reanalyses is equivalent to 1 mm of sea level over 21 years, which highlights the improvements still needed in reanalysis simulations to better assess the contribution of Antarctica to sea level rise. Finally, this work argues for continuing cautious use of reanalysis datasets for climate change assessment.

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Tiffany A. Shaw, Judith Perlwitz, Nili Harnik, Paul A. Newman, and Steven Pawson

Abstract

The impact of stratospheric ozone changes on downward wave coupling between the stratosphere and troposphere in the Southern Hemisphere is investigated using a suite of Goddard Earth Observing System chemistry–climate model (GEOS CCM) simulations. Downward wave coupling occurs when planetary waves reflected in the stratosphere impact the troposphere. In reanalysis data, the climatological coupling occurs from September to December when the stratospheric basic state has a well-defined high-latitude meridional waveguide in the lower stratosphere that is bounded above by a reflecting surface, called a bounded wave geometry. Reanalysis data suggests that downward wave coupling during November–December has increased during the last three decades.

The GEOS CCM simulation of the recent past captures the main features of downward wave coupling in the Southern Hemisphere. Consistent with the Modern Era Retrospective-Analysis for Research and Application (MERRA) dataset, wave coupling in the model maximizes during October–November when there is a bounded wave geometry configuration. However, the wave coupling in the model is stronger than in the MERRA dataset, and starts earlier and ends later in the seasonal cycle. The late season bias is caused by a bias in the timing of the stratospheric polar vortex breakup.

Temporal changes in stratospheric ozone associated with past depletion and future recovery significantly impact downward wave coupling in the model. During the period of ozone depletion, the spring bounded wave geometry, which is favorable for downward wave coupling, extends into early summer, due to a delay in the vortex breakup date, and leads to increased downward wave coupling during November–December. During the period of ozone recovery, the stratospheric basic state during November–December shifts from a spring configuration back to a summer configuration, where waves are trapped in the troposphere, and leads to a decrease in downward wave coupling. Model simulations with chlorine fixed at 1960 values and increasing greenhouse gases show no significant changes in downward wave coupling and confirm that the changes in downward wave coupling in the model are caused by ozone changes. The results reveal a new mechanism wherein stratospheric ozone changes can affect the tropospheric circulation.

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