Flow-Dependent Reliability: A Path to More Skillful Ensemble Forecasts

Rodwell, M. J. ; Richardson, D. S. ; Parsons, D. B. ; Wernli, H.

Année de publication
While chaos ensures that probabilistic weather forecasts cannot always be 'sharp,' it is important for users and developers that they are reliable. For example, they should not be overconfident or underconfident. The 'spread-error' relationship is often used as a first-order assessment of the reliability of ensemble weather forecasts. This states that the ensemble standard deviation (a measure of forecast uncertainty) should match the root-mean-square error on the ensemble mean (when averaged over a sufficient number of forecast start dates). It is shown here that this relationship is now largely satisfied at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) for ensemble forecasts of the midlatitude, midtropospheric flow out to lead times of at least 10 days when averaged over all flow situations throughout the year. This study proposes a practical framework for continued improvement in the reliability (and skill) of such forecasts. This involves the diagnosis of flow-dependent deficiencies in short-range (∼12 h) reliability for a range of synoptic-scale flow types and the prioritization of modeling research to address these deficiencies. The approach is demonstrated for a previously identified flow type, a trough over the Rockies with warm, moist air ahead. The mesoscale convective systems that can ensue are difficult to predict and, by perturbing the jet stream, are thought to lead to deterministic forecast 'busts' for Europe several days later. The results here suggest that jet stream spread is insufficient during this flow type, and thus unreliable. This is likely to mean that the uncertain forecasts for Europe may, nevertheless, still be overconfident.

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