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Subhadeep Halder
and
Paul A. Dirmeyer

Abstract

This observationally based study demonstrates the importance of the delayed hydrological response of snow cover and snowmelt over the Eurasian region and Tibet for variability of Indian summer monsoon rainfall during the first two months after onset. Using snow cover fraction and snow water equivalent data during 1967–2003, it is demonstrated that, although the snow-albedo effect is prevalent over western Eurasia, the delayed hydrological effect is strong and persistent over the eastern part. Long soil moisture memory and strong sensitivity of surface fluxes to soil moisture variations over eastern Asia and Tibet provide a mechanism for soil moisture anomalies generated by anomalies in winter and spring snowfall to affect rainfall during the initial months in summer. Dry soil moisture anomalies over the eastern Eurasian region associated with anomalous heating at the surface and midtroposphere help in anchoring of an anomalous upper-tropospheric “blocking” ridge around 100°E and its persistence. This not only leads to prolonged weakening of the subtropical westerly jet but also shifts its position southward of 30°N, followed by penetration of anomalous troughs in the westerlies into the Indian region. Simultaneously, intrusion of cold and dry air from the midlatitudes can reduce the convective instability and hence rainfall over India after the onset. Such a southward shift of the jet can also significantly weaken the vertical easterly wind shear over the Indian region in summer and lead to decrease in rainfall. This delayed hydrological effect also has the potential to modulate the snow–atmosphere coupling strength for temperature and precipitation in operational forecast models through soil moisture–evaporation–precipitation feedbacks.

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Paul A. Dirmeyer
and
Subhadeep Halder

Abstract

When initial soil moisture is perturbed among ensemble members in the operational NWS global forecast model, surface latent and sensible fluxes are immediately affected much more strongly, systematically, and over a greater area than conventional land–atmosphere coupling metrics suggest. Flux perturbations are likewise transmitted to the atmospheric boundary layer more formidably than climatology-based metrics would indicate. Impacts are not limited to the traditional land–atmosphere coupling hot spots, but extend over nearly all ice-free land areas of the globe. Key to isolating this effect is that initial atmospheric states are identical among quantities correlated, pinpointing soil moisture and snow cover. A consequence of this high sensitivity is that significant positive impacts of realistic land surface initialization on the skill of deterministic near-surface temperature and humidity forecasts are also immediate and nearly universal during boreal spring and summer (the period investigated) and persist for at least 3 days over most land areas. Land surface initialization may be more broadly important for weather forecasts than previously realized, as the research focus historically has been on subseasonal-to-seasonal time scales. This study attempts to bridge the gap between climate studies with their associated coupling assessments and weather forecast time scales. Furthermore, errors in land surface initialization and shortcomings in the parameterization of atmospheric processes sensitive to surface fluxes may have greater consequences than previously recognized, the latter exemplified by the lack of impact on precipitation forecasts even though the simulation of boundary layer development is shown to be greatly improved with realistic soil moisture initialization.

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Paul A. Dirmeyer
and
Subhadeep Halder

Abstract

Retrospective forecasts from CFSv2 are evaluated in terms of three elements of land–atmosphere coupling at subseasonal to seasonal time scales: sensitivity of the atmosphere to variations in land surface states, the magnitude of variability of land states and fluxes, and the memory or persistence of land surface anomalies. The Northern Hemisphere spring and summer seasons are considered for the period 1982–2009. Ensembles are constructed from all available pairings of initial land and atmosphere/ocean states taken from the Climate Forecast System Reanalysis at the start of April, May, and June among the 28 years, so that the effect of initial land states on the evolving forecasts can be assessed. Finally, improvement and continuance of forecast skill derived from accurate land surface initialization is related to the three coupling elements. It is found that soil moisture memory is the most broadly important element for significant improvement of realistic land initialization on forecast skill. However, coupling strength manifested through the elements of sensitivity and variability are necessary to realize the potential predictability provided by memory of initial land surface anomalies. Even though there is clear responsiveness of surface heat fluxes, near-surface temperature, humidity, and daytime boundary layer development to variations in soil moisture over much of the globe, precipitation in CFSv2 is unresponsive. Failure to realize potential predictability from land surface states could be due to unfavorable atmospheric stability or circulation states; poor quality of what is considered realistic soil moisture analyses; and errors in the land surface model, atmospheric model, or their coupled interaction.

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Chul-Su Shin
,
Paul A. Dirmeyer
,
Bohua Huang
,
Subhadeep Halder
, and
Arun Kumar

Abstract

The NCEP CFSv2 ensemble reforecasts initialized with different land surface analyses for the period of 1979–2010 have been conducted to assess the effect of uncertainty in land initial states on surface air temperature prediction. The two observation-based land initial states are adapted from the NCEP CFS Reanalysis (CFSR) and the NASA GLDAS-2 analysis; atmosphere, ocean, and ice initial states are identical for both reforecasts. This identical-twin experiment confirms that the prediction skill of surface air temperature is sensitive to the uncertainty of land initial states, especially in soil moisture and snow cover. There is no distinct characteristic that determines which set of the reforecasts performs better. Rather, the better performer varies with the lead week and location for each season. Estimates of soil moisture between the two land initial states are significantly different with an apparent north–south contrast for almost all seasons, causing predicted surface air temperature discrepancies between the two sets of reforecasts, particularly in regions where the magnitude of initial soil moisture difference lies in the top quintile. In boreal spring, inconsistency of snow cover between the two land initial states also plays a critical role in enhancing the discrepancy of predicted surface air temperature from week 5 to week 8. Our results suggest that a reduction of the uncertainty in land surface properties among the current land surface analyses will be beneficial to improving the prediction skill of surface air temperature on subseasonal time scales. Implications of a multiple land surface analysis ensemble are also discussed.

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Chul-Su Shin
,
Bohua Huang
,
Paul A. Dirmeyer
,
Subhadeep Halder
, and
Arun Kumar

Abstract

In addition to remote SST forcing, realistic representation of land forcing (i.e., soil moisture) over the United States is critical for a prediction of U.S. severe drought events approximately one season in advance. Using “identical twin” experiments with different land initial conditions (ICs) in the 32-yr (1979–2010) CFSv2 reforecasts (NASA GLDAS-2 reanalysis versus NCEP CFSR), sensitivity and skill of U.S. drought predictions to land ICs are evaluated. Although there is no outstanding performer between the two sets of forecasts with different land ICs, each set shows greater skill in some regions, but their locations vary with forecast lead time and season. The 1999 case study demonstrates that although a pattern of below-normal SSTs in the Pacific in the fall and winter is realistically reproduced in both reforecasts, GLDAS-2 land initial states display a stronger east–west gradient of soil moisture, particularly drier in the eastern United States and more consistent with observations, leading to warmer surface temperature anomalies over the United States. Anomalies lasting for one season are accompanied by more persistent barotropic (warm core) anomalous high pressure over CONUS, which results in better prediction skill of this drought case up to 4 months in advance in the reforecasts with GLDAS-2 land ICs. Therefore, it is essential to minimize the uncertainty of land initial states among the current land analyses for improving U.S. drought prediction on seasonal time scales.

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Bohua Huang
,
Chul-Su Shin
,
J. Shukla
,
Lawrence Marx
,
Magdalena A. Balmaseda
,
Subhadeep Halder
,
Paul Dirmeyer
, and
James L. Kinter III

Abstract

A set of ensemble seasonal reforecasts for 1958–2014 is conducted using the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Climate Forecast System, version 2. In comparison with other current reforecasts, this dataset extends the seasonal reforecasts to the 1960s–70s. Direct comparison of the predictability of the ENSO events occurring during the 1960s–70s with the more widely studied ENSO events since then demonstrates the seasonal forecast system’s capability in different phases of multidecadal variability and degrees of global climate change. A major concern for a long reforecast is whether the seasonal reforecasts before 1979 provide useful skill when observations, particularly of the ocean, were sparser. This study demonstrates that, although the reforecasts have lower skill in predicting SST anomalies in the North Pacific and North Atlantic before 1979, the prediction skill of the onset and development of ENSO events in 1958–78 is comparable to that for 1979–2014. In particular, the ENSO predictions initialized in April during 1958–78 show higher skill in the summer. However, the skill of the earlier predictions declines faster in the ENSO decaying phase, because the reforecasts initialized after boreal summer persistently predict lingering wind and SST anomalies over the eastern equatorial Pacific during such events. Reforecasts initialized in boreal fall overestimate the peak SST anomalies of strong El Niño events since the 1980s. Both phenomena imply that the model’s air–sea feedback is overly active in the eastern Pacific before ENSO event termination. Whether these differences are due to changes in the observing system or are associated with flow-dependent predictability remains an open question.

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