Inherent bounds on forecast accuracy due to observation uncertainty caused by temporal sampling
Stephenson, David B.
Monthly Weather Review
American Meteorological Society
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Reason for embargo
Synoptic observations are often treated as error-free representations of the true state of the real world. For example, when observations are used to verify numerical weather prediction (NWP) forecasts, forecast-observation differences (the total error) are often entirely attributed to forecast inaccuracy. Such simplification is no longer justifiable for short-lead forecasts made with increasingly accurate higher-resolution models. For example, at least 25% of t + 6 h individual Met Office site-specific (postprocessed) temperature forecasts now typically have total errors of less than 0.2 K, which are comparable to typical instrument measurement errors of around 0.1 K. In addition to instrument errors, uncertainty is introduced by measurements not being taken concurrently with the forecasts. For example, synoptic temperature observations in the United Kingdom are typically taken 10 min before the hour, whereas forecasts are generally extracted as instantaneous values on the hour. This study develops a simple yet robust statistical modeling procedure for assessing how serially correlated subhourly variations limit the forecast accuracy that can be achieved. The methodology is demonstrated by application to synoptic temperature observations sampled every minute at several locations around the United Kingdom. Results show that subhourly variations lead to sizeable forecast errors of 0.16-0.44 K for observations taken 10 min before the forecast issue time. The magnitude of this error depends on spatial location and the annual cycle, with the greater errors occurring in the warmer seasons and at inland sites. This important source of uncertainty consists of a bias due to the diurnal cycle, plus irreducible uncertainty due to unpredictable subhourly variations that fundamentally limit forecast accuracy.
© Copyright 2015 American Meteorological Society (AMS).
Author Affiliations: MARION P. MITTERMAIER (Numerical Modelling, Weather Science, Met Office, Exeter, United Kingdom). DAVID B. STEPHENSON (Exeter Climate Systems, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, Exeter University, Exeter, United Kingdom)
Vol. 143, pp. 4236 - 4243