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Masao Kanamitsu, Cheng-Hsuan Lu, Jae Schemm, and Wesley Ebisuzaki

Abstract

Using the NCEP–DOE reanalysis (R-2) soil wetness and the NCEP Seasonal Forecast System, seasonal predictability of the soil moisture and near-surface temperature, and the role of land surface initial conditions are examined. Two sets of forecasts were made, one starting from climatological soil moisture as initial condition and the other from R-2 soil moisture analysis. Each set consisted of 10-member ensemble runs of 7-month duration. Initial conditions were taken from the first 5 days of April, 12 h apart, for the 1979–96 period.

The predictive skill of soil moisture was found to be high over arid/semiarid regions. The model prediction surpassed the persisted anomaly forecast, and the soil moisture initial condition was essential for skillful predictions over these areas. Over temperate zones with more precipitation, and over tropical monsoon regions, the predictive skill of the soil moisture declined steeply in the first 3–4 months. This is due to the difficulties in predicting precipitation accurately. In contrast, the situation was very different over tropical South America where tropical SST forcing controlled the precipitation and where the model simulated the precipitation well. The forecast starting from climatological soil moisture approached the forecast skill of initial soil moisture in 3–4 months; after that the effect of initial soil moisture information tended to disappear.

The near-surface temperature anomaly forecast was closely related to the soil moisture anomaly forecast, but the skill was lower. The verification of temperature made against the U.S. 344 climate division data indicated that the improvement in the forecast skill was not an artifact of the R-2 soil moisture analysis.

It was suggested that the equatorial Pacific SST anomaly had an impact on the soil moisture anomaly over the continental United States during the first month of integration, and then it contributed positively toward the prediction of near-surface temperature during the following months.

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