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Anthony M. DeAngelis, Hailan Wang, Randal D. Koster, Siegfried D. Schubert, Yehui Chang, and Jelena Marshak

Abstract

Rapid-onset droughts, known as flash droughts, can have devastating impacts on agriculture, water resources, and ecosystems. The ability to predict flash droughts in advance would greatly enhance our preparation for them and potentially mitigate their impacts. Here, we investigate the prediction skill of the extreme 2012 flash drought over the U.S. Great Plains at subseasonal lead times (3 weeks or more in advance) in global forecast systems participating in the Subseasonal Experiment (SubX). An additional comprehensive set of subseasonal hindcasts with NASA’s GEOS model, a SubX model with relatively high prediction skill, was performed to investigate the separate contributions of atmospheric and land initial conditions to flash drought prediction skill. The results show that the prediction skill of the SubX models is quite variable. While skillful predictions are restricted to within the first two forecast weeks in most models, skill is considerably better (3–4 weeks or more) for certain models and initialization dates. The enhanced prediction skill is found to originate from two robust sources: 1) accurate soil moisture initialization once dry soil conditions are established, and 2) the satisfactory representation of quasi-stationary cross-Pacific Rossby wave trains that lead to the rapid intensification of flash droughts. Evidence is provided that the importance of soil moisture initialization applies more generally to central U.S. summer flash droughts. Our results corroborate earlier findings that accurate soil moisture initialization is important for skillful subseasonal forecasts and highlight the need for additional research on the sources and predictability of drought-inducing quasi-stationary atmospheric circulation anomalies.

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Kathy Pegion, Ben P. Kirtman, Emily Becker, Dan C. Collins, Emerson LaJoie, Robert Burgman, Ray Bell, Timothy DelSole, Dughong Min, Yuejian Zhu, Wei Li, Eric Sinsky, Hong Guan, Jon Gottschalck, E. Joseph Metzger, Neil P Barton, Deepthi Achuthavarier, Jelena Marshak, Randal D. Koster, Hai Lin, Normand Gagnon, Michael Bell, Michael K. Tippett, Andrew W. Robertson, Shan Sun, Stanley G. Benjamin, Benjamin W. Green, Rainer Bleck, and Hyemi Kim

Abstract

The Subseasonal Experiment (SubX) is a multimodel subseasonal prediction experiment designed around operational requirements with the goal of improving subseasonal forecasts. Seven global models have produced 17 years of retrospective (re)forecasts and more than a year of weekly real-time forecasts. The reforecasts and forecasts are archived at the Data Library of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Columbia University, providing a comprehensive database for research on subseasonal to seasonal predictability and predictions. The SubX models show skill for temperature and precipitation 3 weeks ahead of time in specific regions. The SubX multimodel ensemble mean is more skillful than any individual model overall. Skill in simulating the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), two sources of subseasonal predictability, is also evaluated, with skillful predictions of the MJO 4 weeks in advance and of the NAO 2 weeks in advance. SubX is also able to make useful contributions to operational forecast guidance at the Climate Prediction Center. Additionally, SubX provides information on the potential for extreme precipitation associated with tropical cyclones, which can help emergency management and aid organizations to plan for disasters.

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Ben P. Kirtman, Dughong Min, Johnna M. Infanti, James L. Kinter III, Daniel A. Paolino, Qin Zhang, Huug van den Dool, Suranjana Saha, Malaquias Pena Mendez, Emily Becker, Peitao Peng, Patrick Tripp, Jin Huang, David G. DeWitt, Michael K. Tippett, Anthony G. Barnston, Shuhua Li, Anthony Rosati, Siegfried D. Schubert, Michele Rienecker, Max Suarez, Zhao E. Li, Jelena Marshak, Young-Kwon Lim, Joseph Tribbia, Kathleen Pegion, William J. Merryfield, Bertrand Denis, and Eric F. Wood

The recent U.S. National Academies report, Assessment of Intraseasonal to Interannual Climate Prediction and Predictability, was unequivocal in recommending the need for the development of a North American Multimodel Ensemble (NMME) operational predictive capability. Indeed, this effort is required to meet the specific tailored regional prediction and decision support needs of a large community of climate information users.

The multimodel ensemble approach has proven extremely effective at quantifying prediction uncertainty due to uncertainty in model formulation and has proven to produce better prediction quality (on average) than any single model ensemble. This multimodel approach is the basis for several international collaborative prediction research efforts and an operational European system, and there are numerous examples of how this multimodel ensemble approach yields superior forecasts compared to any single model.

Based on two NOAA Climate Test bed (CTB) NMME workshops (18 February and 8 April 2011), a collaborative and coordinated implementation strategy for a NMME prediction system has been developed and is currently delivering real-time seasonal-to-interannual predictions on the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) operational schedule. The hindcast and real-time prediction data are readily available (e.g., http://iridl.ldeo.columbia.edu/SOURCES/.Models/.NMME/) and in graphical format from CPC (www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/NMME/). Moreover, the NMME forecast is already currently being used as guidance for operational forecasters. This paper describes the new NMME effort, and presents an overview of the multimodel forecast quality and the complementary skill associated with individual models.

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