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Jennifer S. R. Pirret, Joseph D. Daron, Philip E. Bett, Nicolas Fournier, and Andre Kamga Foamouhoue

Abstract

Seasonal climate forecasts have the potential to support planning decisions and provide advanced warning to government, industry, and communities to help reduce the impacts of adverse climatic conditions. Assessing the reliability of seasonal forecasts, generated using different models and methods, is essential to ensure their appropriate interpretation and use. Here we assess the reliability of forecasts for seasonal total precipitation in Sahelian West Africa, a region of high year-to-year climate variability. Through digitizing forecasts issued from the regional climate outlook forum in West Africa known as Prévisions Climatiques Saisonnières en Afrique Soudano-Sahélienne (PRESASS), we assess their reliability by comparing them to the Climate Hazards Group Infrared Precipitation with Stations (CHIRPS) project observational data over the past 20 years. The PRESASS forecasts show positive skill and reliability, but a bias toward lower forecast probabilities in the below-normal precipitation category. In addition, we assess the reliability of seasonal precipitation forecasts for the same region using available global dynamical forecast models. We find all models have positive skill and reliability, but this varies geographically. On average, NCEP’s CFS and ECMWF’s SEAS5 systems show greater skill and reliability than the Met Office’s GloSea5, and in turn than Météo-France’s Sys5, but one key caveat is that model performance might depend on the meteorological situation. We discuss the potential for improving use of dynamical model forecasts in the regional climate outlook forums, to improve the reliability of seasonal forecasts in the region and the objectivity of the seasonal forecasting process used in the PRESASS regional climate outlook forum.

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Marina Baldissera Pacchetti, Jillian Schacher, Suraje Dessai, Marta Bruno Soares, Rob Lawlor, and Joseph Daron
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