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Albert Hertzog
Claude Basdevant
, and
François Vial


This article estimates the biases and standard deviations of the 40-yr European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Re-Analysis (ERA-40) and the 50-yr National Centers for Environmental Prediction–National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCEP–NCAR) Reanalysis (NN50) in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere in 1971–72. These estimates are obtained by comparing the reanalyzed temperatures and winds with EOLE observations, a dataset collected during 480 superpressure-ballon flights in the Southern Hemisphere (SH). Dedicated algorithms have been developped to control the quality of this dataset and a stringent selection has been performed on the observations. None of the atmospheric centers has assimilated the EOLE dataset, which is therefore fully independent from the reanalyses. It is furthermore argued that the statistics obtained in this study at the end of the presatellite era may be representative of the reanalysis accuracy since 1957. The results of these comparisons indicate that NN50 tends to be a few degrees colder than the observations in the SH subpolar latitudes, while ERA-40 is less hit by this cold-pole issue. Both reanalyses, on the other hand, are found to be warmer than the observations by about 1 K in the subtropics. In contrast, the wind comparisons only exhibit nonsignificant or small reanalysis biases, even though the reanalyzed subtropical jet is slightly displaced equatorward with respect to the observations. The ability of reanalyses to capture the atmospheric synoptic-scale variability in the upper troposphere is assessed by computing the standard deviations of the reanalysis minus observation differences. The ERA-40 and NN50 standard deviations show a maximum (i.e., a poorer reanalysis accuracy) in the SH storm track. However, ERA-40 standard deviations are found to be much larger than NN50 standard deviations. The standard deviations also exhibit a marked decrease above the continents, stressing the heterogeneity of the atmospheric observation network during the presatellite era. Finally, in contrast with previous studies, the reanalysis accuracy does not appear to be better during summer than during winter.

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