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Michael G. Bosilovich, Franklin R. Robertson, Lawrence Takacs, Andrea Molod, and David Mocko

Abstract

Closing and balancing Earth’s global water cycle remains a challenge for the climate community. Observations are limited in duration, global coverage, and frequency, and not all water cycle terms are adequately observed. Reanalyses aim to fill the gaps through the assimilation of as many atmospheric water vapor observations as possible. Former generations of reanalyses have demonstrated a number of systematic problems that have limited their use in climate studies, especially regarding low-frequency trends. This study characterizes the NASA Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications version 2 (MERRA-2) water cycle relative to contemporary reanalyses and observations. MERRA-2 includes measures intended to minimize the spurious global variations related to inhomogeneity in the observational record. The global balance and cycling of water from ocean to land is presented, with special attention given to the water vapor analysis increment and the effects of the changing observing system. While some systematic regional biases can be identified, MERRA-2 produces temporally consistent time series of total column water and transport of water from ocean to land. However, the interannual variability of ocean evaporation is affected by the changing surface-wind-observing system, and precipitation variability is closely related to the evaporation. The surface energy budget is also strongly influenced by the interannual variability of the ocean evaporation. Furthermore, evaluating the relationship of temperature and water vapor indicates that the variations of water vapor with temperature are weaker in satellite data reanalyses, not just MERRA-2, than determined by observations, atmospheric models, or reanalyses without water vapor assimilation.

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Raghuveer K. Vinukollu, Justin Sheffield, Eric F. Wood, Michael G. Bosilovich, and David Mocko

Abstract

Using data from seven global model operational analyses (OA), one land surface model, and various remote sensing retrievals, the energy and water fluxes over global land areas are intercompared for 2003/04. Remote sensing estimates of evapotranspiration (ET) are obtained from three process-based models that use input forcings from multisensor satellites. An ensemble mean (linear average) of the seven operational (mean-OA) models is used primarily to intercompare the fluxes with comparisons performed at both global and basin scales. At the global scale, it is found that all components of the energy budget represented by the ensemble mean of the OA models have a significant bias. Net radiation estimates had a positive bias (global mean) of 234 MJ m−2 yr−1 (7.4 W m−2) as compared to the remote sensing estimates, with the latent and sensible heat fluxes biased by 470 MJ m−2 yr−1 (13.3 W m−2) and −367 MJ m−2 yr−1 (11.7 W m−2), respectively. The bias in the latent heat flux is affected by the bias in the net radiation, which is primarily due to the biases in the incoming shortwave and outgoing longwave radiation and to the nudging process of the operational models. The OA models also suffer from improper partitioning of the surface heat fluxes. Comparison of precipitation (P) analyses from the various OA models, gauge analysis, and remote sensing retrievals showed better agreement than the energy fluxes. Basin-scale comparisons were consistent with the global-scale results, with the results for the Amazon in particular showing disparities between OA and remote sensing estimates of energy fluxes. The biases in the fluxes are attributable to a combination of errors in the forcing from the OA atmospheric models and the flux calculation methods in their land surface schemes. The atmospheric forcing errors are mainly attributable to high shortwave radiation likely due to the underestimation of clouds, but also precipitation errors, especially in water-limited regions.

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Jiangfeng Wei, Paul A. Dirmeyer, Dominik Wisser, Michael G. Bosilovich, and David M. Mocko

Abstract

Irrigation is an important human activity that may impact local and regional climate, but current climate model simulations and data assimilation systems generally do not explicitly include it. The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Interim Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) shows more irrigation signal in surface evapotranspiration (ET) than the Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) because ERA-Interim adjusts soil moisture according to the observed surface temperature and humidity while MERRA has no explicit consideration of irrigation at the surface. But, when compared with the results from a hydrological model with detailed considerations of agriculture, the ET from both reanalyses show large deficiencies in capturing the impact of irrigation. Here, a back-trajectory method is used to estimate the contribution of irrigation to precipitation over local and surrounding regions, using MERRA with observation-based corrections and added irrigation-caused ET increase from the hydrological model. Results show substantial contributions of irrigation to precipitation over heavily irrigated regions in Asia, but the precipitation increase is much less than the ET increase over most areas, indicating that irrigation could lead to water deficits over these regions. For the same increase in ET, precipitation increases are larger over wetter areas where convection is more easily triggered, but the percentage increase in precipitation is similar for different areas. There are substantial regional differences in the patterns of irrigation impact, but, for all the studied regions, the highest percentage contribution to precipitation is over local land.

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Michael G. Bosilovich, Junye Chen, Franklin R. Robertson, and Robert F. Adler

Abstract

Retrospective-analysis (or reanalysis) systems merge observations and models to provide global four-dimensional earth system data encompassing many physical and dynamical processes. Precipitation is one critical diagnostic that is not only sensitive to the observing system and model physics, but also reflects the general circulation. Climate records of observed precipitation through a merged satellite and gauge dataset provide a reference for comparison, though not without their own uncertainty. In this study, five reanalyses precipitation fields are compared with two observed data products to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the reanalyses. Taylor diagrams show the skill of the reanalyses relative to the reference dataset. While there is a general sense that the reanalyses precipitation data are improving in recent systems, it is not always the case. In some ocean regions, NCEP–NCAR reanalysis spatial patterns are closer to observed precipitation than NCEP–Department of Energy. The 40-yr ECMWF reanalysis (ERA-40) produces reasonable comparisons over Northern Hemisphere continents, but less so in the tropical oceans. On the other hand, the most recent reanalysis, the Japanese 25-yr reanalysis (JRA-25), shows good comparisons in both the Northern Hemisphere continents and the tropical oceans but contains distinct variation according to the available observing systems. The statistics and methods used are also tested on short experiments from a data assimilation system proposed to perform a satellite-era reanalysis.

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Paul A. Dirmeyer, Jiangfeng Wei, Michael G. Bosilovich, and David M. Mocko

Abstract

A quasi-isentropic, back-trajectory scheme is applied to output from the Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) and a land-only replay with corrected precipitation to estimate surface evaporative sources of moisture supplying precipitation over every ice-free land location for the period 1979–2005. The evaporative source patterns for any location and time period are effectively two-dimensional probability distributions. As such, the evaporative sources for extreme situations like droughts or wet intervals can be compared to the corresponding climatological distributions using the method of relative entropy. Significant differences are found to be common and widespread for droughts, but not wet periods, when monthly data are examined. At pentad temporal resolution, which is more able to isolate floods and situations of atmospheric rivers, values of relative entropy over North America are typically 50%–400% larger than at monthly time scales. Significant differences suggest that moisture transport may be a key factor in precipitation extremes. Where evaporative sources do not change significantly, it implies other local causes may underlie the extreme events.

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Franklin R. Robertson, Michael G. Bosilovich, Junye Chen, and Timothy L. Miller

Abstract

Like all reanalysis efforts, the Modern Era Retrospective-Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) must contend with an inhomogeneous observing network. Here the effects of the two most obvious observing system epoch changes, the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit-A (AMSU-A) series in late 1998 and, to a lesser extent, the earlier advent of the Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) in late 1987 are examined. These sensor changes affect model moisture and enthalpy increments and thus water and energy fluxes, since the latter result from model physics processes that respond sensitively to state variable forcing. Inclusion of the analysis increments in the MERRA dataset is a unique feature among reanalyses that facilitates understanding the relationships between analysis forcing and flux response.

In stepwise fashion in time, the vertically integrated global-mean moisture increments change sign from drying to moistening and heating increments drop nearly 15 W m−2 over the 30 plus years of the assimilated products. Regression of flux quantities on an El Niño–Southern Oscillation sea surface temperature (SST) index analysis reveals that this mode of climate variability dominates interannual signals and its leading expression is minimally affected by satellite observing system changes. Conversely, precipitation patterns and other fluxes influenced by SST changes associated with Pacific decadal variability (PDV) are significantly distorted. Observing system changes also induce a nonstationary component to the annual cycle signals.

Principal component regression is found useful for identifying artifacts produced by changes of satellite sensors and defining appropriate adjustments. After the adjustments are applied, the spurious flux trend components are greatly diminished. Time series of the adjusted precipitation and the Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP) data compare favorably on a global basis. The adjustments also provide a much better depiction of precipitation spatial trends associated with PDV-like forcing. The utility as well as associated drawbacks of this statistical adjustment and the prospects for future improvements of the methodology are discussed.

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J. Brent Roberts, Franklin R. Robertson, Carol A. Clayson, and Michael G. Bosilovich

Abstract

Turbulent fluxes of heat and moisture across the atmosphere–ocean interface are fundamental components of the earth’s energy and water balance. Characterizing both the spatiotemporal variability and the fidelity of these exchanges of heat and moisture is critical to understanding the global water and energy cycle variations, quantifying atmosphere–ocean feedbacks, and improving model predictability. This study examines the veracity of the recently completed NASA Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) product in terms of its turbulent surface fluxes. This assessment employs a large dataset of directly measured turbulent fluxes as well as other turbulent surface flux datasets. The spatial and temporal variability of the surface fluxes are examined in terms of their annual-mean climatologies, their seasonal covariability of near-surface bulk parameters, and their representation of extremes. The impact of data assimilation on the near-surface parameters is assessed through evaluation of the incremental analysis update tendencies. It is found that MERRA turbulent surface fluxes are relatively accurate for typical conditions but have systematically weak vertical gradients in moisture and temperature and a weaker covariability between the near-surface gradients and wind speed than found in observations. This results in an underestimate of the surface latent and sensible heat fluxes over the western boundary current and storm-track regions. The assimilation of observations generally acts to bring MERRA closer to observational products by increasing moisture and temperature near the surface and decreasing the near-surface wind speeds.

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Amal El Akkraoui, David Carvalho, Ronald M. Errico, Nikki C. Privé, and Michael G. Bosilovich

ABSTRACT

Due to production time constraints, most reanalyses are produced in multiple parallel streams instead of a single continuous one. These streams cover separate segments of the reanalysis time period with short overlaps to allow reconstruction of the official record. A fundamental assumption justifying this approach is that the streams will be assimilating the same observations during the periods where they overlap, and so will eventually converge to a similar atmospheric state, making discontinuities at stream junctions negligible. This assumption is revisited in this work by examining the impact of analysis error on the differences between MERRA-2 overlapping streams in three historical periods. Comparison results are shown in terms of standard deviations of stream differences as well as the spectral decomposition of the variance of their differences. Residual differences were found at the end of each year of overlap, with larger values observed in the earlier segments of the presatellite era. By drawing parallels with analysis error statistics estimated from the GMAO OSSE system, these differences are shown to reflect the varying constraint of data with the varying observing network, and to further carry the imprint of errors that the data assimilation process is not able to mitigate. As such, they are unlikely to be reduced by longer spinup periods. The ability of data assimilation to ensure continuity in the parallel streams is put into question when the observing system coverage is inadequate or simply when the data assimilation system as a whole is suboptimal.

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Junye Chen, Anthony D. Del Genio, Barbara E. Carlson, and Michael G. Bosilovich

Abstract

The spatiotemporal structure of Pacific pan-decadal variability (PDV) is isolated in global long-term surface temperature (ST) datasets and reanalysis atmospheric parameter fields from which El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) effects have been removed. Empirical orthogonal function (EOF) and combined EOF analysis of the resulting time series identify PDV as one of two primary modes of long-term variability, the other being a global warming (GW) trend, which is addressed in a companion paper (Part I).

In this study, it is shown that one of several PDV interdecadal regime shifts occurred during the 1990s. This significant change in the Pacific basin is comparable but antiphase to the well-known 1976 climate regime shift and is consistent with the observed changes in biosystems and ocean circulation. A comprehensive picture of PDV as manifested in the troposphere and at the surface is described. In general, the PDV spatial patterns in different parameter fields share some similarities with the patterns associated with ENSO, but important differences exist. First, the PDV circulation pattern is shifted westward by about 20° and is less zonally extended than that for ENSO. The westward shift of the PDV wave train produces a different North American teleconnection pattern that is more west–east oriented. The lack of a strong PDV surface temperature (ST) signal in the west equatorial Pacific and the relatively strong ST signal in the subtropical regions are consistent with an atmospheric overturning circulation response that differs from the one associated with ENSO. The analysis also suggests that PDV is a combination of decadal and/or interdecadal oscillations interacting through teleconnections.

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Junye Chen, Anthony D. Del Genio, Barbara E. Carlson, and Michael G. Bosilovich

Abstract

The dominant interannual El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon and the short length of climate observation records make it difficult to study long-term climate variations in the spatiotemporal domain. Based on the fact that the ENSO signal spreads to remote regions and induces delayed climate variation through atmospheric teleconnections, an ENSO-removal method is developed through which the ENSO signal can be approximately removed at the grid box level from the spatiotemporal field of a climate parameter. After this signal is removed, long-term climate variations are isolated at mid- and low latitudes in the climate parameter fields from observed and reanalysis datasets. This paper addresses the long-term global warming trend (GW); a companion paper concentrates on Pacific pan-decadal variability (PDV).

The warming that occurs in the Pacific basin (approximately 0.4 K in the twentieth century) is much weaker than in surrounding regions and the other two ocean basins (approximately 0.8 K). The modest warming in the Pacific basin is likely due to its dynamic nature on the interannual and decadal time scales and/or the leakage of upper ocean water through the Indonesian Throughflow.

Based on the National Centers for Environmental Prediction–National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCEP–NCAR) and the 40-yr European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Re-Analysis (ERA-40), a comprehensive atmospheric structure associated with the GW trend is given. Significant discrepancies exist between the two datasets, especially in the tightly coupled dynamics and water vapor fields. The dynamics fields based on NCEP–NCAR, which show a change in the Walker Circulation, are consistent with the GW change in the surface temperature field. However, intensification in the Hadley Circulation is associated with GW trend in ERA-40 instead.

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