Atmospheric predictability revisited
To link to this article DOI: 10.3402/tellusa.v65i0.19022
This article examines the potential to improve numerical weather prediction (NWP) by estimating upper and lower bounds on predictability by re-visiting the original study of Lorenz (1982) but applied to the most recent version of the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) forecast system, for both the deterministic and ensemble prediction systems (EPS). These bounds are contrasted with an older version of the same NWP system to see how they have changed with improvements to the NWP system. The computations were performed for the earlier seasons of DJF 1985/1986 and JJA 1986 and the later seasons of DJF 2010/2011 and JJA 2011 using the 500-hPa geopotential height field. Results indicate that for this field, we may be approaching the limit of deterministic forecasting so that further improvements might only be obtained by improving the initial state. The results also show that predictability calculations with earlier versions of the model may overestimate potential forecast skill, which may be due to insufficient internal variability in the model and because recent versions of the model are more realistic in representing the true atmospheric evolution. The same methodology is applied to the EPS to calculate upper and lower bounds of predictability of the ensemble mean forecast in order to explore how ensemble forecasting could extend the limits of the deterministic forecast. The results show that there is a large potential to improve the ensemble predictions, but for the increased predictability of the ensemble mean, there will be a trade-off in information as the forecasts will become increasingly smoothed with time. From around the 10-d forecast time, the ensemble mean begins to converge towards climatology. Until this point, the ensemble mean is able to predict the main features of the large-scale flow accurately and with high consistency from one forecast cycle to the next. By the 15-d forecast time, the ensemble mean has lost information with the anomaly of the flow strongly smoothed out. In contrast, the control forecast is much less consistent from run to run, but provides more detailed (unsmoothed) but less useful information.