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Thomas Reichler
John O. Roads


The global three-dimensional structure of long-range (one month to one season) atmospheric predictability was investigated with a general circulation model. The main focus was to ascertain the role of atmospheric initial conditions for such predictability as a function of lead time and space. Four types of predictability experiments with different types of initial and boundary conditions were conducted to this end. The experiments were verified against reanalysis and model data to determine real forecast skill, as well as skill under the perfect model assumption. Spatial maps and vertical cross sections of predictability at different lead times and for the two contrasting seasons were analyzed to document the varying influence of initial and boundary conditions on predictability. It was found that the atmosphere was remarkably sensitive to initial conditions on the week 3–6 forecast range. Particularly, the troposphere over Antarctica, the region over the tropical Indian Ocean, and the lower stratosphere were affected. It was shown that most of the initial condition memory was related to the persistent nature of the atmosphere in these regions, which in turn was linked to the major modes of atmospheric variability.

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Thomas Reichler
Paul J. Kushner
, and
Lorenzo M. Polvani


A simple atmospheric general circulation model (GCM) is used to investigate the transient response of the stratosphere–troposphere system to externally imposed pulses of lower-tropospheric planetary wave activity. The atmospheric GCM is a dry, hydrostatic, global primitive-equations model, whose circulation includes an active polar vortex and a tropospheric jet maintained by baroclinic eddies. Planetary wave activity pulses are generated by a perturbation of the solid lower boundary that grow and decay over a period of 10 days. The planetary wave pulses propagate upward and break in the stratosphere. Subsequently, a zonal-mean circulation anomaly propagates downward, often into the troposphere, at lags of 30–100 days. The evolution of the response is found to be dependent on the state of the stratosphere–troposphere system at the time the pulse is generated. In particular, on the basis of a large ensemble of these simulations, it is found that the length of time the signal takes to propagate downward from the stratosphere is controlled by initial anomalies in the zonal-mean circulation and in the zonal-mean wave drag. Criteria based on these anomaly patterns can be used, therefore, to predict the long-term surface response of the stratosphere–troposphere system to a planetary wave pulse up to 90 days after the pulse is generated. In an independent test, it is verified that the initial states that most strongly satisfy these criteria respond in the expected way to the lower-tropospheric wave activity pulse.

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