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Peitao Peng
,
Anthony G. Barnston
, and
Arun Kumar

Abstract

Analyses of the relative prediction skills of NOAA’s Climate Forecast System versions 1 and 2 (CFSv1 and CFSv2, respectively), and the NOAA/Climate Prediction Center’s (CPC) operational seasonal outlook, are conducted over the 15-yr common period of 1995–2009. The analyses are applied to predictions of seasonal mean surface temperature and total precipitation over the conterminous United States for the shortest and most commonly used lead time of 0.5 months. The assessments include both categorical and probabilistic verification diagnostics—their seasonalities, spatial distributions, and probabilistic reliability. Attribution of skill to specific physical sources is attempted when possible. Motivations for the analyses are to document improvements in skill between two generations of NOAA’s dynamical seasonal prediction system and to inform the forecast producers, but more importantly the user community, of the skill of the CFS model now in use (CFSv2) to help guide the users’ decision-making processes. The CFSv2 model is found to deliver generally higher mean predictive skill than CFSv1. This result is strongest for surface temperature predictions, and may be related to the use of time-evolving CO2 concentration in CFSv2, in contrast to a fixed (and now outdated) concentration used in CFSv1. CFSv2, and especially CFSv1, exhibit more forecast “overconfidence” than the official seasonal outlooks, despite that the CFSv2 hindcasts have outperformed the outlooks more than half of the time. Results justify the greater weight given to CFSv2 in developing the final outlooks than given to previous dynamical input tools (e.g., CFSv1) and indicate that CFSv2 should be of greater interest to users.

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Peitao Peng
,
Arun Kumar
,
Michael S. Halpert
, and
Anthony G. Barnston

Abstract

An analysis and verification of 15 years of Climate Prediction Center (CPC) operational seasonal surface temperature and precipitation climate outlooks over the United States is presented for the shortest and most commonly used lead time of 0.5 months. The analysis is intended to inform users of the characteristics and skill of the outlooks, and inform the forecast producers of specific biases or weaknesses to help guide development of improved forecast tools and procedures. The forecast assessments include both categorical and probabilistic verification diagnostics and their seasonalities, and encompass both temporal and spatial variations in forecast skill. A reliability analysis assesses the correspondence between the forecast probabilities and their corresponding observed relative frequencies. Attribution of skill to specific physical sources is discussed. ENSO and long-term trends are shown to be the two dominant sources of seasonal forecast skill. Higher average skill is found for temperature than for precipitation, largely because temperature benefits from trends to a much greater extent than precipitation, whose skill is more exclusively ENSO based. Skill over the United States is substantially dependent on season and location. The warming trend is shown to have been reproduced, but considerably underestimated, in the forecasts. Aside from this underestimation, and slight overconfidence in precipitation forecast probabilities, a fairly good correspondence between forecast probabilities and subsequent observed relative frequencies is found. This confirms that the usually weak forecast probability anomalies, while disappointing to some users, are justified by normally modest signal-to-noise ratios.

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Akila Sampath
,
Uma S. Bhatt
,
Peter A. Bieniek
,
Robert Ziel
,
Alison York
,
Heidi Strader
,
Sharon Alden
,
Richard Thoman
,
Brian Brettschneider
,
Eugene Petrescu
,
Peitao Peng
, and
Sarah Mitchell

Abstract

In this study, seasonal forecasts from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Climate Forecast System, version 2 (CFSv2), are compared with station observations to assess their usefulness in producing accurate buildup index (BUI) forecasts for the fire season in Interior Alaska. These comparisons indicate that the CFSv2 June–July–August (JJA) climatology (1994–2017) produces negatively biased BUI forecasts because of negative temperature and positive precipitation biases. With quantile mapping (QM) correction, the temperature and precipitation forecasts better match the observations. The long-term JJA mean BUI improves from 12 to 42 when computed using the QM-corrected forecasts. Further postprocessing of the QM-corrected BUI forecasts using the quartile classification method shows anomalously high values for the 2004 fire season, which was the worst on record in terms of the area burned by wildfires. These results suggest that the QM-corrected CFSv2 forecasts can be used to predict extreme fire events. An assessment of the classified BUI ensemble members at the subseasonal scale shows that persistently occurring BUI forecasts exceeding 150 in the cumulative drought season can be used as an indicator that extreme fire events will occur during the upcoming season. This study demonstrates the ability of QM-corrected CFSv2 forecasts to predict the potential fire season in advance. This information could, therefore, assist fire managers in resource allocation and disaster response preparedness.

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