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Yueya Wang
Xiaoming Shi
Lili Lei
, and
Jimmy Chi-Hung Fung


Remote sensing data play a critical role in improving numerical weather prediction (NWP). However, the physical principles of radiation dictate that data voids frequently exist in physical space (e.g., subcloud area for satellite infrared radiance or no-precipitation region for radar reflectivity). Such data gaps impair the accuracy of initial conditions derived from data assimilation (DA), which has a negative impact on NWP. We use the barotropic vorticity equation to demonstrate the potential of deep learning augmented data assimilation (DDA), which involves reconstructing spatially complete pseudo-observation fields from incomplete observations and using them for DA. By training a convolutional autoencoder (CAE) with a long simulation at a coarse “forecast” resolution (T63), we obtained a deep learning approximation of the “reconstruction operator,” which maps spatially incomplete observations to a model state with full spatial coverage and resolution. The CAE was applied to an incomplete streamfunction observation (∼30% missing) from a high-resolution benchmark simulation and demonstrated satisfactory reconstruction performance, even when only very sparse (1/16 of T63 grid density) observations were used as input. When only spatially incomplete observations are used, the analysis fields obtained from ensemble square root filter (EnSRF) assimilation exhibit significant error. However, in DDA, when EnSRF takes in the combined data from the incomplete observations and CAE reconstruction, analysis error reduces significantly. Such gains are more pronounced with sparse observation and small ensemble size because the DDA analysis is much less sensitive to observation density and ensemble size than the conventional DA analysis, which is based solely on incomplete observations.

Significance Statement

Data assimilation plays a critical role in improving the skills of modern numerical weather prediction by establishing accurate initial conditions. However, unobservable regions are common in observation data, particularly those derived from remote sensing. The nonlinear relationship between data from observable regions and the physical state of unobservable regions may impede DA efficiency. As a result, we propose that deep learning be used to improve data assimilation in such cases by reconstructing a spatially complete first guess of the physical state with deep learning and then applying data assimilation to the reconstructed field. Such deep learning augmentation is found effective in improving the accuracy of data assimilation, especially for sparse observation and small ensemble size.

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