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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Realistic Initialization of Land Surface States: Impacts on Subseasonal Forecast Skill

Published Web Location Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

Forcing a land surface model (LSM) offline with realistic global fields of precipitation, radiation, and near-surface meteorology produces realistic fields (within the context of the LSM) of soil moisture, temperature, and other land surface states. These fields can be used as initial conditions for precipitation and temperature forecasts with an atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM). Their usefulness is tested in this regard by performing retrospective 1-month forecasts (for May through September, 1979–93) with the NASA Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO) seasonal prediction system. The 75 separate forecasts provide an adequate statistical basis for quantifying improvements in forecast skill associated with land initialization.

Evaluation of skill is focused on the Great Plains of North America, a region with both a reliable land initialization and an ability of soil moisture conditions to overwhelm atmospheric chaos in the evolution of the meteorological fields. The land initialization does cause a small but statistically significant improvement in precipitation and air temperature forecasts in this region. For precipitation, the increases in forecast skill appear strongest in May through July, whereas for air temperature, they are largest in August and September. The joint initialization of land and atmospheric variables is considered in a supplemental series of ensemble monthly forecasts. Potential predictability from atmospheric initialization dominates over that from land initialization during the first 2 weeks of the forecast, whereas during the final 2 weeks, the relative contributions from the two sources are of the same order. Both land and atmospheric initialization contribute independently to the actual skill of the monthly temperature forecast, with the greatest skill derived from the initialization of both. Land initialization appears to contribute the most to monthly precipitation forecast skill.

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