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  • Author or Editor: Siegfried D. Schubert x
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Man-Li C. Wu, Oreste Reale, and Siegfried D. Schubert


This study shows that the African easterly wave (AEW) activity over the African monsoon region and the northern tropical Atlantic can be divided in two distinct temporal bands with time scales of 2.5–6 and 6–9 days. The results are based on a two-dimensional ensemble empirical mode decomposition (2D-EEMD) of the Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA). The novel result of this investigation is that the 6–9-day waves appear to be located predominantly to the north of the African easterly jet (AEJ), originate at the jet level, and are different in scale and structure from the well-known low-level 2.5–6-day waves that develop baroclinically on the poleward flank of the AEJ. Moreover, they appear to interact with midlatitude eastward-propagating disturbances, with the strongest interaction taking place at the latitudes where the core of the Atlantic high pressure system is located. Composite analyses applied to the mode decomposition indicate that the interaction of the 6–9-day waves with midlatitude systems is characterized by enhanced southerly (northerly) flow from (toward) the tropics. This finding agrees with independent studies focused on European floods, which have noted enhanced moist transport from the ITCZ toward the Mediterranean region on time scales of about a week as important precursors of extreme precipitation.

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Man-Li C. Wu, Oreste Reale, Siegfried D. Schubert, Max J. Suarez, and Chris D. Thorncroft


This study investigates the structure of the African easterly jet, focusing on instability processes on a seasonal and subseasonal scale, with the goal of identifying features that could provide increased predictability of Atlantic tropical cyclogenesis. The Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) is used as the main investigating tool. MERRA is compared with other reanalyses datasets from major operational centers around the world and was found to describe very effectively the circulation over the African monsoon region. In particular, a comparison with precipitation datasets from the Global Precipitation Climatology Project shows that MERRA realistically reproduces seasonal precipitation over that region. The verification of the generalized Kuo barotropic instability condition computed from seasonal means is found to have the interesting property of defining well the location where observed tropical storms are detected. This property does not appear to be an artifact of MERRA and is present also in the other adopted reanalysis datasets. Therefore, the fact that the areas where the mean flow is unstable seems to provide a more favorable environment for wave intensification, could be another factor to include—in addition to sea surface temperature, vertical shear, precipitation, the role of Saharan air, and others—among large-scale forcings affecting development and tropical cyclone frequency. In addition, two prominent modes of variability are found based on a spectral analysis that uses the Hilbert–Huang transform: a 2.5–6-day mode that corresponds well to the African easterly waves and also a 6–9-day mode that seems to be associated with tropical–extratropical interaction.

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Michele M. Rienecker, Max J. Suarez, Ronald Gelaro, Ricardo Todling, Julio Bacmeister, Emily Liu, Michael G. Bosilovich, Siegfried D. Schubert, Lawrence Takacs, Gi-Kong Kim, Stephen Bloom, Junye Chen, Douglas Collins, Austin Conaty, Arlindo da Silva, Wei Gu, Joanna Joiner, Randal D. Koster, Robert Lucchesi, Andrea Molod, Tommy Owens, Steven Pawson, Philip Pegion, Christopher R. Redder, Rolf Reichle, Franklin R. Robertson, Albert G. Ruddick, Meta Sienkiewicz, and Jack Woollen


The Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) was undertaken by NASA’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office with two primary objectives: to place observations from NASA’s Earth Observing System satellites into a climate context and to improve upon the hydrologic cycle represented in earlier generations of reanalyses. Focusing on the satellite era, from 1979 to the present, MERRA has achieved its goals with significant improvements in precipitation and water vapor climatology. Here, a brief overview of the system and some aspects of its performance, including quality assessment diagnostics from innovation and residual statistics, is given.

By comparing MERRA with other updated reanalyses [the interim version of the next ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) and the Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR)], advances made in this new generation of reanalyses, as well as remaining deficiencies, are identified. Although there is little difference between the new reanalyses in many aspects of climate variability, substantial differences remain in poorly constrained quantities such as precipitation and surface fluxes. These differences, due to variations both in the models and in the analysis techniques, are an important measure of the uncertainty in reanalysis products. It is also found that all reanalyses are still quite sensitive to observing system changes. Dealing with this sensitivity remains the most pressing challenge for the next generation of reanalyses.

Production has now caught up to the current period and MERRA is being continued as a near-real-time climate analysis. The output is available online through the NASA Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center (GES DISC).

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