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  • Author or Editor: John A. Knaff x
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Christopher W. Landsea
John A. Knaff

The very strong 1997–98 El Niño was the first major event in which numerous forecasting groups participated in its real-time prediction. A previously developed simple statistical tool—the El Niño–Southern Oscillation Climatology and Persistence (ENSO–CLIPER) model—is utilized as a baseline for determination of skill in forecasting this event. Twelve statistical and dynamical models were available in real time for evaluation. Some of the models were able to outperform ENSO–CLIPER in predicting either the onset or the decay of the 1997–98 El Niño, but none were successful at both for a medium-range two season (6–8 months) lead time. There were no models, including ENSO–CLIPER, able to anticipate even one-half of the actual amplitude of the El Niño's peak at medium-range (6–11 months) lead. In addition, none of the models showed skill (i.e., lower root-mean-square error than ENSO–CLIPER) at the zero season (0–2 months) through the two season (6–8 months) lead times. No dynamical model and only two of the statistical models [the canonical correlation analysis (CCA) and the constructed analog (ANALOG)] outperformed ENSO–CLIPER by more than 5% of the root-mean-square error at the three season (9–11 months) and four season (12–14 months) lead time. El Niño impacts were correctly anticipated by national meteorological centers one half-year in advance, because of the tendency for El Niño events to persist into and peak during the boreal winter. Despite this, the zero to two season (0–8 month) forecasts of the El Niño event itself were no better than ENSO–CLIPER and were, in that sense, not skillful—a conclusion that remains unclear to the general meteorological and oceanographic communities.

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Mark DeMaria
Charles R. Sampson
John A. Knaff
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Kate D. Musgrave

The mean absolute error of the official tropical cyclone (TC) intensity forecasts from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) shows limited evidence of improvement over the past two decades. This result has sometimes erroneously been used to conclude that little or no progress has been made in the TC intensity guidance models. This article documents statistically significant improvements in operational TC intensity guidance over the past 24 years (1989–2012) in four tropical cyclone basins (Atlantic, eastern North Pacific, western North Pacific, and Southern Hemisphere). Errors from the best available model have decreased at 1%–2% yr−1 at 24–72 h, with faster improvement rates at 96 and 120 h. Although these rates are only about one-third to one-half of the rates of reduction of the track forecast models, most are statistically significant at the 95% level. These error reductions resulted from improvements in statistical–dynamical intensity models and consensus techniques that combine information from statistical–dynamical and dynamical models. The reason that the official NHC and JTWC intensity forecast errors have decreased slower than the guidance errors is because in the first half of the analyzed period, their subjective forecasts were more accurate than any of the available guidance. It is only in the last decade that the objective intensity guidance has become accurate enough to influence the NHC and JTWC forecast errors.

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