Accuracy of Estimates of Atmospheric Large-Scale Energy Flux Divergence

Eero Holopainen Department of Meteorology, University of Helsinki, 00100 Helsinki, Finland

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Carl Fortelius Department of Meteorology, University of Helsinki, 00100 Helsinki, Finland

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Abstract

A short review of atmospheric energy transport studies is given, and the importance of the Global Weather Experiment for such studies is emphasized. The accuracy of energy flux (divergence) estimates is then discussed, comparing results obtained for February 1979 from two independent sets of analyses using the same procedures. It is concluded that at present the uncertainty in estimates of the zonally averaged monthly mean poleward transport of (dry static) energy is of the order of 1 × 1015 W, being less in the extratropics than in the tropics.

The results indicate that the accuracy in the estimation of the global distribution of diabatic heating has been much improved by the Global Weather Experiment. This accuracy is, however, not yet good enough for the satellite/atmospheric measurement method (“Oort-Vonder Haar method”) to be useful for oceanographic purposes. Future progress in our ability to diagnose atmospheric heat sources and sinks is intimately tied to progress in the development of data assimilation methods.

Abstract

A short review of atmospheric energy transport studies is given, and the importance of the Global Weather Experiment for such studies is emphasized. The accuracy of energy flux (divergence) estimates is then discussed, comparing results obtained for February 1979 from two independent sets of analyses using the same procedures. It is concluded that at present the uncertainty in estimates of the zonally averaged monthly mean poleward transport of (dry static) energy is of the order of 1 × 1015 W, being less in the extratropics than in the tropics.

The results indicate that the accuracy in the estimation of the global distribution of diabatic heating has been much improved by the Global Weather Experiment. This accuracy is, however, not yet good enough for the satellite/atmospheric measurement method (“Oort-Vonder Haar method”) to be useful for oceanographic purposes. Future progress in our ability to diagnose atmospheric heat sources and sinks is intimately tied to progress in the development of data assimilation methods.

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