Thirty Years of Improving the NCEP Global Forecast System
Abstract:Current eight day forecasts by the NCEP Global Forecast System are as accurate as five day forecasts 30 years ago. This revolution in weather forecasting reflects increases in computer power, improvements in the assimilation of observations, especially satellite data, improvements in model physics, improvements in observations and international cooperation and competition. One important component has been and is the diagnosis, evaluation and reduction of systematic errors. The effect of proposed improvements in the GFS on systematic errors is one component of the thorough testing of such improvements by the Global Climate and Weather Modeling Branch. Examples of reductions in systematic errors in zonal mean temperatures and winds and other fields will be presented.
One challenge in evaluating systematic errors is uncertainty in what reality is. Model initial states can be regarded as the best overall depiction of the atmosphere, but can be misleading in areas of few observations or for fields not well observed such as humidity or precipitation over the oceans. Verification of model physics is particularly difficult. The Environmental Modeling Center emphasizes the evaluation of systematic biases against observations.
Recently EMC has placed greater emphasis on synoptic evaluation and on precipitation, 2-meter temperatures and dew points and 10 meter winds. A weekly EMC map discussion reviews the performance of many models over the United States and has helped diagnose and alleviate significant systematic errors in the GFS, including a near surface summertime evening cold wet bias over the eastern US and a multi-week period when the GFS persistently developed bogus tropical storms off Central America. The GFS exhibits a wet bias for light rain and a dry bias for moderate to heavy rain over the continental United States.
Significant changes to the GFS are scheduled to be implemented in the fall of 2014. These include higher resolution, improved physics and improvements to the assimilation. These changes significantly improve the tropospheric flow and reduce a tropical upper tropospheric warm bias. One important error remaining is the failure of the GFS to maintain deep convection over Indonesia and in the tropical west Pacific. This and other current systematic errors will be presented.