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Richard Kleeman
and
Andrew M. Moore

Abstract

Determination of the reliability of particular ENSO forecasts is of particular importance to end users. Theoretical arguments are developed that indicate that the amplitudes of slowly decaying (or growing) normal modes of the coupled system provide a useful measure of forecast reliability. Historical forecasts from a skillful prediction model together with a series of ensemble predictions from a “perfect model” experiment are used to demonstrate that these arguments carry over to the practical prediction situation. In such a setting it is found that the amplitude of the dominant normal mode, which strongly resembles the observed ENSO cycle, is a potentially useful index of reliability. The fact that this index was generally lower in the 1970s than the 1980s provides an explanation for why many coupled models performed better in the latter decade. It does not, however, explain the low skill of some coupled models in the early 1990s as the index defined here was then moderate.

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Rong-Hua Zhang
,
Stephen E. Zebiak
,
Richard Kleeman
, and
Noel Keenlyside

Abstract

A new intermediate coupled model (ICM) is presented and employed to make retrospective predictions of tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies. The ocean dynamics is an extension of the McCreary baroclinic modal model to include varying stratification and certain nonlinear effects. A standard configuration is chosen with 10 baroclinic modes plus two surface layers, which are governed by Ekman dynamics and simulate the combined effects of the higher baroclinic modes from 11 to 30. A nonlinear correction associated with vertical advection of zonal momentum is incorporated and applied (diagnostically) only within the two surface layers, forced by the linear part through nonlinear advection terms. As a result of these improvements, the model realistically simulates the mean equatorial circulation and its variability. The ocean thermodynamics include an SST anomaly model with an empirical parameterization for the temperature of subsurface water entrained into the mixed layer (Te ), which is optimally calculated in terms of sea surface height (SSH) anomalies using an empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis technique from historical data. The ocean model is then coupled to a statistical atmospheric model that estimates wind stress (τ) anomalies based on a singular value decomposition (SVD) analysis between SST anomalies observed and τ anomalies simulated from ECHAM4.5 (24-member ensemble mean). The coupled system exhibits realistic interannual variability associated with El Niño, including a predominant standing pattern of SST anomalies along the equator and coherent phase relationships among different atmosphere–ocean anomaly fields with a dominant 3-yr oscillation period.

Twelve-month hindcasts/forecasts are made during the period 1963–2002, starting each month. Only observed SST anomalies are used to initialize the coupled predictions. As compared to other prediction systems, this coupled model has relatively small systematic errors in the predicted SST anomalies, and its SST prediction skill is apparently competitive with that of most advanced coupled systems incorporating sophisticated ocean data assimilation. One striking feature is that the model skill surpasses that of persistence at all lead times over the central equatorial Pacific. Prediction skill is strongly dependent on the season, with the correlations attaining a minimum in spring and a maximum in fall. Cross-validation experiments are performed to examine the sensitivity of the prediction skill to the data periods selected for training the empirical Te model. It is demonstrated that the artificial skill introduced by using a dependently constructed Te model is not significant. Independent forecasts are made for the period 1997–2002 when no dependent data are included in constructing the two empirical models (Te and τ). The coupled model has reasonable success in predicting transition to warm phase and to cold phase in the spring of 1997 and 1998, respectively. Potential problems and further improvements are discussed with the new intermediate prediction system.

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Guomin Wang
,
Richard Kleeman
,
Neville Smith
, and
Faina Tseitkin

Abstract

An El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) prediction system with a coupled general circulation model and an ocean data assimilation scheme has been developed at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre (BMRC). The coupled model consists of an R21L9 version of the BMRC climate model and a global version of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory modular ocean general circulation model with resolution focused in the tropical region and 25 vertical levels. A univariate statistical interpolation method, with 10-day data ingestion windows, is used to assimilate ocean temperature data and initialize the coupled model. The coupling procedure does not use any flux corrections. Hindcasts have been carried out for the period 1981–95 for each season (60 in all), for up to a lead time of 12 months. This paper will describe these initial experiments and show that the skill of sea surface temperature (SST) hindcasts in the tropical Pacific is comparable to other published coupled models. The skill of the model is strongest in the central Pacific. SST skill tends to be lower during the earlier 1990s than during 1980s in the eastern Pacific but not in the central Pacific. Since the ENSO SST anomaly in the central Pacific is the most important forcing of regional and global climate anomalies, the high SST prediction skill and its insensitivity over the hindcast period in this region in this model give grounds for optimism in the use of coupled general circulation models.

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Richard Kleeman
,
Andrew M. Moore
, and
Neville R. Smith

Abstract

An adjoint variational assimilation technique is used to assimilate observations of both the oceanic state and wind stress data into an intermediate coupled ENSO prediction model. This method of initialization is contrasted with the more usual method, which uses only wind stress data to establish the initial state of the ocean. It is shown that ocean temperature data has a positive impact on the prediction skill in such models. On the basis of hindcasts for the period 1982–91, it is shown that NIN03 SST anomaly correlations greater than 0.7 can be obtained for hindcasts of duration up to 13 months and greater than 0.6 up to 16 months. There are also clear indications of skill at two years.

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