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Anthony G. Barnston, Michael K. Tippett, Huug M. van den Dool, and David A. Unger


Since 2002, the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, later in partnership with the Climate Prediction Center, has issued an ENSO prediction product informally called the ENSO prediction plume. Here, measures to improve the reliability and usability of this product are investigated, including bias and amplitude corrections, the multimodel ensembling method, formulation of a probability distribution, and the format of the issued product. Analyses using a subset of the current set of plume models demonstrate the necessity to correct individual models for mean bias and, less urgent, also for amplitude bias, before combining their predictions. The individual ensemble members of all models are weighted equally in combining them to form a multimodel ensemble mean forecast, because apparent model skill differences, when not extreme, are indistinguishable from sampling error when based on a sample of 30 cases or less. This option results in models with larger ensemble numbers being weighted relatively more heavily. Last, a decision is made to use the historical hindcast skill to determine the forecast uncertainty distribution rather than the models’ ensemble spreads, as the spreads may not always reproduce the skill-based uncertainty closely enough to create a probabilistically reliable uncertainty distribution. Thus, the individual model ensemble members are used only for forming the models’ ensemble means and the multimodel forecast mean. In other situations, the multimodel member spread may be used directly. The study also leads to some new formats in which to more effectively show both the mean ENSO prediction and its probability distribution.

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