Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications version 2 (MERRA-2)

Description:

NASA’s Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications, version 2 (MERRA-2), is an atmospheric reanalysis designed to provide an intermediate dataset and bridge between the first MERRA reanalysis and the project’s long-term goal of producing a coupled Earth system reanalysis. MERRA-2 incorporates system changes and fundamental developments in modeling and data assimilation, including 1) assimilation of aerosol observations that can interact with atmospheric radiative processes; 2) constraining mass conservation even with the analysis of water vapor, allowing a global balance between evaporation and precipitation; 3) use of a cube sphere to reduce the effect of gridpoint singularities at the pole, allowing for improved polar circulation; 4) an updated radiative transfer model to permit the assimilation of data from many more instruments than could have been included in MERRA; and 5) inclusion of new observational forcing for the land model to provide more stable land feedback processes. This special collection documents the performance of MERRA-2 and addresses key research questions in large-scale climate and weather.

An overview article of the MERRA-2 project can be found here.

Collection organizer:
Dr. Michael G. Bosilovich, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications version 2 (MERRA-2)

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Ronald Gelaro, Will McCarty, Max J. Suárez, Ricardo Todling, Andrea Molod, Lawrence Takacs, Cynthia A. Randles, Anton Darmenov, Michael G. Bosilovich, Rolf Reichle, Krzysztof Wargan, Lawrence Coy, Richard Cullather, Clara Draper, Santha Akella, Virginie Buchard, Austin Conaty, Arlindo M. da Silva, Wei Gu, Gi-Kong Kim, Randal Koster, Robert Lucchesi, Dagmar Merkova, Jon Eric Nielsen, Gary Partyka, Steven Pawson, William Putman, Michele Rienecker, Siegfried D. Schubert, Meta Sienkiewicz, and Bin Zhao

Abstract

The Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications, version 2 (MERRA-2), is the latest atmospheric reanalysis of the modern satellite era produced by NASA’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO). MERRA-2 assimilates observation types not available to its predecessor, MERRA, and includes updates to the Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS) model and analysis scheme so as to provide a viable ongoing climate analysis beyond MERRA’s terminus. While addressing known limitations of MERRA, MERRA-2 is also intended to be a development milestone for a future integrated Earth system analysis (IESA) currently under development at GMAO. This paper provides an overview of the MERRA-2 system and various performance metrics. Among the advances in MERRA-2 relevant to IESA are the assimilation of aerosol observations, several improvements to the representation of the stratosphere including ozone, and improved representations of cryospheric processes. Other improvements in the quality of MERRA-2 compared with MERRA include the reduction of some spurious trends and jumps related to changes in the observing system and reduced biases and imbalances in aspects of the water cycle. Remaining deficiencies are also identified. Production of MERRA-2 began in June 2014 in four processing streams and converged to a single near-real-time stream in mid-2015. MERRA-2 products are accessible online through the NASA Goddard Earth Sciences Data Information Services Center (GES DISC).

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Young-Kwon Lim, Robin M. Kovach, Steven Pawson, and Guillaume Vernieres

Abstract

The 2015/16 El Niño is analyzed using atmospheric and oceanic analysis produced using the Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS) data assimilation systems. As well as describing the structure of the event, a theme of this work is to compare and contrast it with two other strong El Niños, in 1982/83 and 1997/98. These three El Niño events are included in the Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) and in the more recent MERRA-2 reanalyses. MERRA-2 allows a comparison of fields derived from the underlying GEOS model, facilitating a more detailed comparison of physical forcing mechanisms in the El Niño events. Various atmospheric and oceanic structures indicate that the 2015/16 El Niño maximized in the Niño-3.4 region, with a large region of warming over most of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The eastern tropical Indian Ocean, Maritime Continent, and western tropical Pacific are found to be less dry in boreal winter, compared to the earlier two strong events. Whereas the 2015/16 El Niño had an earlier occurrence of the equatorial Pacific warming and was the strongest event on record in the central Pacific, the 1997/98 event exhibited a more rapid growth due to stronger westerly wind bursts and the Madden–Julian oscillation during spring, making it the strongest El Niño in the eastern Pacific. Compared to 1982/83 and 1997/98, the 2015/16 event had a shallower thermocline over the eastern Pacific with a weaker zonal contrast of subsurface water temperatures along the equatorial Pacific. While the three major ENSO events have similarities, each is unique when looking at the atmosphere and ocean surface and subsurface.

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Rolf H. Reichle, Clara S. Draper, Q. Liu, Manuela Girotto, Sarith P. P. Mahanama, Randal D. Koster, and Gabrielle J. M. De Lannoy

Abstract

The MERRA-2 atmospheric reanalysis product provides global, 1-hourly estimates of land surface conditions for 1980–present at ~50-km resolution. MERRA-2 uses observations-based precipitation to force the land (unlike its predecessor, MERRA). This paper evaluates MERRA-2 and MERRA land hydrology estimates, along with those of the land-only MERRA-Land and ERA-Interim/Land products, which also use observations-based precipitation. Overall, MERRA-2 land hydrology estimates are better than those of MERRA-Land and MERRA. A comparison against GRACE satellite observations of terrestrial water storage demonstrates clear improvements in MERRA-2 over MERRA in South America and Africa but also reflects known errors in the observations used to correct the MERRA-2 precipitation. Validation against in situ measurements from 220–320 stations in North America, Europe, and Australia shows that MERRA-2 and MERRA-Land have the highest surface and root zone soil moisture skill, slightly higher than that of ERA-Interim/Land and higher than that of MERRA (significantly for surface soil moisture). Snow amounts from MERRA-2 have lower bias and correlate better against reference data from the Canadian Meteorological Centre than do those of MERRA-Land and MERRA, with MERRA-2 skill roughly matching that of ERA-Interim/Land. Validation with MODIS satellite observations shows that MERRA-2 has a lower snow cover probability of detection and probability of false detection than MERRA, owing partly to MERRA-2’s lower midwinter, midlatitude snow amounts and partly to MERRA-2’s revised snow depletion curve parameter compared to MERRA. Finally, seasonal anomaly R values against naturalized streamflow measurements in the United States are, on balance, highest for MERRA-2 and ERA-Interim/Land, somewhat lower for MERRA-Land, and lower still for MERRA (significantly in four basins).

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Krzysztof Wargan, Gordon Labow, Stacey Frith, Steven Pawson, Nathaniel Livesey, and Gary Partyka

Abstract

The assimilated ozone product from the Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications, version 2 (MERRA-2), produced at NASA’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO) spanning the time period from 1980 to the present is described herein, and its quality is assessed. MERRA-2 assimilates partial column ozone retrievals from a series of Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet Radiometer (SBUV) instruments on NASA and NOAA spacecraft between January 1980 and September 2004: starting in October 2004, retrieved ozone profiles from the Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) and total column ozone from the Ozone Monitoring Instrument on NASA’s EOS Aura satellite are assimilated. The MERRA-2 ozone is compared with independent satellite and ozonesonde data, focusing on the representation of the spatial and temporal variability of stratospheric and upper-tropospheric ozone and on implications of the change in the observing system from SBUV to EOS Aura. The comparisons show agreement within 10% (standard deviation of the difference) between MERRA-2 profiles and independent satellite data in most of the stratosphere. The agreement improves after 2004, when EOS Aura data are assimilated. The standard deviation of the differences between the lower-stratospheric and upper-tropospheric MERRA-2 ozone and ozonesondes is 11.2% and 24.5%, respectively, with correlations of 0.8 and above, indicative of a realistic representation of the near-tropopause ozone variability in MERRA-2. The agreement improves significantly in the EOS Aura period; however, MERRA-2 is biased low in the upper troposphere with respect to the ozonesondes. Caution is recommended when using MERRA-2 ozone for decadal changes and trend studies.

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Rolf H. Reichle, Q. Liu, Randal D. Koster, Clara S. Draper, Sarith P. P. Mahanama, and Gary S. Partyka

Abstract

The Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications, version 2 (MERRA-2), features several major advances from the original MERRA reanalysis, including the use, outside of high latitudes, of observations-based precipitation data products to correct the precipitation falling on the land surface in the MERRA-2 system. The method for merging the observed precipitation into MERRA-2 has been refined from that of the (land-only) MERRA-Land reanalysis. This paper describes the method and evaluates the MERRA-2 land surface precipitation. Compared to monthly GPCPv2.2 observations, the corrected MERRA-2 precipitation (M2CORR) is better than the precipitation generated by the atmospheric models within the cycling MERRA-2 and MERRA systems. M2CORR is also better than MERRA-Land precipitation over Africa because in MERRA-2 a merged satellite–gauge precipitation product is used instead of the gauge-only data used for MERRA-Land. Compared to 3-hourly TRMM observations, the M2CORR diurnal cycle has better amplitude but less realistic phasing than MERRA-2 model-generated precipitation. Because correcting the precipitation within the coupled atmosphere–land modeling system allows the MERRA-2 near-surface air temperature and humidity to respond to the improved precipitation forcing, MERRA-2 provides more self-consistent surface meteorological data than were available from MERRA-Land, which is important for applications such as land-only modeling studies. Where precipitation observations of sufficient quality are available for use in the reanalysis, the corrections facilitate the seamless spinup of the land surface initial conditions across the MERRA-2 production streams. At high latitudes, however, the lack of reliable precipitation observations results in undesirable land spinup effects that impact mostly the first published year of each MERRA-2 stream (1980, 1992, 2001, and 2011).

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Michael G. Bosilovich, Franklin R. Robertson, Lawrence Takacs, Andrea Molod, and David Mocko

Abstract

Closing and balancing Earth’s global water cycle remains a challenge for the climate community. Observations are limited in duration, global coverage, and frequency, and not all water cycle terms are adequately observed. Reanalyses aim to fill the gaps through the assimilation of as many atmospheric water vapor observations as possible. Former generations of reanalyses have demonstrated a number of systematic problems that have limited their use in climate studies, especially regarding low-frequency trends. This study characterizes the NASA Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications version 2 (MERRA-2) water cycle relative to contemporary reanalyses and observations. MERRA-2 includes measures intended to minimize the spurious global variations related to inhomogeneity in the observational record. The global balance and cycling of water from ocean to land is presented, with special attention given to the water vapor analysis increment and the effects of the changing observing system. While some systematic regional biases can be identified, MERRA-2 produces temporally consistent time series of total column water and transport of water from ocean to land. However, the interannual variability of ocean evaporation is affected by the changing surface-wind-observing system, and precipitation variability is closely related to the evaporation. The surface energy budget is also strongly influenced by the interannual variability of the ocean evaporation. Furthermore, evaluating the relationship of temperature and water vapor indicates that the variations of water vapor with temperature are weaker in satellite data reanalyses, not just MERRA-2, than determined by observations, atmospheric models, or reanalyses without water vapor assimilation.

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Allison B. Marquardt Collow, Michael G. Bosilovich, and Randal D. Koster

Abstract

Observations indicate that over the last few decades there has been a statistically significant increase in precipitation in the northeastern United States and that this can be attributed to an increase in precipitation associated with extreme precipitation events. Here a state-of-the-art atmospheric reanalysis is used to examine such events in detail. Daily extreme precipitation events defined at the 75th and 95th percentile from gridded gauge observations are identified for a selected region within the Northeast. Atmospheric variables from the Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications, version 2 (MERRA-2), are then composited during these events to illustrate the time evolution of associated synoptic structures, with a focus on vertically integrated water vapor fluxes, sea level pressure, and 500-hPa heights. Anomalies of these fields move into the region from the northwest, with stronger anomalies present in the 95th percentile case. Although previous studies show tropical cyclones are responsible for the most intense extreme precipitation events, only 10% of the events in this study are caused by tropical cyclones. On the other hand, extreme events resulting from cutoff low pressure systems have increased. The time period of the study was divided in half to determine how the mean composite has changed over time. An arc of lower sea level pressure along the East Coast and a change in the vertical profile of equivalent potential temperature suggest a possible increase in the frequency or intensity of synoptic-scale baroclinic disturbances.

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Franklin R. Robertson, Michael G. Bosilovich, and Jason B. Roberts

Abstract

Vertically integrated atmospheric moisture transport from ocean to land [vertically integrated atmospheric moisture flux convergence (VMFC)] is a dynamic component of the global climate system but remains problematic in atmospheric reanalyses, with current estimates having significant multidecadal global trends differing even in sign. Continual evolution of the global observing system, particularly stepwise improvements in satellite observations, has introduced discrete changes in the ability of data assimilation to correct systematic model biases, manifesting as nonphysical variability. Land surface models (LSMs) forced with observed precipitation P and near-surface meteorology and radiation provide estimates of evapotranspiration (ET). Since variability of atmospheric moisture storage is small on interannual and longer time scales, VMFC = P − ET is a good approximation and LSMs can provide an alternative estimate. However, heterogeneous density of rain gauge coverage, especially the sparse coverage over tropical continents, remains a serious concern.

Rotated principal component analysis (RPCA) with prefiltering of VMFC to isolate the artificial variability is used to investigate artifacts in five reanalysis systems. This procedure, although ad hoc, enables useful VMFC corrections over global land. The P − ET estimates from seven different LSMs are evaluated and subsequently used to confirm the efficacy of the RPCA-based adjustments. Global VMFC trends over the period 1979–2012 ranging from 0.07 to −0.03 mm day−1 decade−1 are reduced by the adjustments to 0.016 mm day−1 decade−1, much closer to the LSM P − ET estimate (0.007 mm day−1 decade−1). Neither is significant at the 90% level. ENSO-related modulation of VMFC and P − ET remains the largest global interannual signal, with mean LSM and adjusted reanalysis time series correlating at 0.86.

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Allison B. Marquardt Collow and Mark A. Miller

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Changes in the climate system of the Amazon rain forest of Brazil can impact factors that influence the radiation budget such as clouds, atmospheric moisture, and the surface albedo. This study examines the relationships between clouds and radiation in this region using surface observations from the first year of the deployment of the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Program’s Mobile Facility 1 (AMF1) in Manacapuru, Brazil, and satellite measurements from the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES). The seasonal cycles of the radiation budget and cloud radiative effects (CREs) are evaluated at the top of the atmosphere (TOA), at the surface, and within the atmospheric column using these observations and are placed into a regional context using the Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications, version 2 (MERRA-2). Water vapor and clouds are abundant throughout the year, even though slight decreases are observed in the dry season. The column water vapor load is large enough that the longwave radiative flux divergence is nearly constant throughout the year. Clouds produce a significant shortwave CRE at the surface and TOA, exceeding 200 W m−2 during the wet season. Discrepancies, especially in column shortwave radiative absorption, between the observations and MERRA-2 are demonstrated that warrant additional analysis of the microphysical and macrophysical cloud properties in MERRA-2. More trustworthy fields in the MERRA-2 product suggest that the expansive nearby river system impacts the regional radiation budget and thereby renders AMF1 observations potentially biased relative to regions farther removed from rivers within the Amazon rain forest.

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Lawrence Coy, Krzysztof Wargan, Andrea M. Molod, William R. McCarty, and Steven Pawson

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The structure, dynamics, and ozone signal of the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) produced by the 35-yr NASA Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications, version 2 (MERRA-2), are examined based on monthly mean output. Along with the analysis of the QBO in assimilation winds and ozone, the QBO forcings created by assimilated observations, dynamics, parameterized gravity wave drag (GWD), and ozone chemistry parameterization are examined and compared with the original MERRA system. Results show that MERRA-2 produces a realistic QBO in the zonal winds, mean meridional circulation, and ozone over the 1980–2015 time period. In particular, the MERRA-2 zonal winds show improved representation of the QBO 50-hPa westerly phase amplitude at Singapore when compared to MERRA. The use of limb ozone observations creates improved vertical structure and realistic downward propagation of the ozone QBO signal during times when the MLS ozone limb observations are available (from October 2004 to present). The increased equatorial GWD in MERRA-2 has reduced the zonal wind data analysis contribution compared to MERRA so that the QBO mean meridional circulation can be expected to be more physically forced and therefore more physically consistent. This can be important for applications in which MERRA-2 winds are used to drive transport experiments.

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