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Diana J. M. Greenslade and Ian R. Young


One of the main limitations to current wave data assimilation systems is the lack of an accurate representation of the structure of the background errors. One method that may be used to determine background errors is the “NMC method.” This method examines the forecast divergence component of the background error growth by considering differences between forecasts of different ranges valid at the same time. In this paper, the NMC method is applied to global forecasts of significant wave height (SWH) and surface wind speed (U10).

It is found that the isotropic correlation length scale of the SWH forecast divergence (L SWH) has considerable geographical variability, with the longest scales just to the south of the equator in the eastern Pacific Ocean, and the shortest scales at high latitudes. The isotropic correlation length scale of the U10 forecast divergence (L U10) has a similar distribution with a stronger latitudinal dependence. It is found that both L SWH and L U10 increase as the forecast period increases. The increase in L SWH is partly due to L U10 also increasing. Another explanation is that errors in the analysis or the short-range SWH forecast propagate forward in time and disperse and their scale becomes larger. It is shown that the forecast divergence component of the background error is strongly anisotropic with the longest scales perpendicular to the likely direction of propagation of swell. In addition, in regions where the swell propagation is seasonal, the forecast divergence component of the background error shows a similar strong seasonal signal. It is suggested that the results of this study provide a lower bound to the description of the total background error in global wave models.

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