Jonas Bhend, Mark A. Liniger, Henning W. Rust, Wolfgang A. Müller, Uwe Ulbrich
Near-term climate predictions such as decadal climate forecasts are increasingly being used to guide adaptation measures. For near-term probabilistic predictions to be useful, systematic errors of the forecasting systems have to be corrected. While methods for the calibration of probabilistic forecasts are readily available, these have to be adapted to the specifics of decadal climate forecasts including the long time horizon of decadal climate forecasts, lead-time-dependent systematic errors (drift) and the errors in the representation of long-term changes and variability. These features are compounded by small ensemble sizes to describe forecast uncertainty and a relatively short period for which typically pairs of reforecasts and observations are available to estimate calibration parameters. We introduce the Decadal Climate Forecast Recalibration Strategy (DeFoReSt), a parametric approach to recalibrate decadal ensemble forecasts that takes the above specifics into account. DeFoReSt optimizes forecast quality as measured by the continuous ranked probability score (CRPS). Using a toy model to generate synthetic forecast observation pairs, we demonstrate the positive effect on forecast quality in situations with pronounced and limited predictability. Finally, we apply DeFoReSt to decadal surface temperature forecasts from the MiKlip prototype system and find consistent, and sometimes considerable, improvements in forecast quality compared with a simple calibration of the lead-time-dependent systematic errors.