Düsterhus, A., Brune, S., Müller, W.A., Baehr, J.
We demonstrate in this paper that conventional time-averaged decadal hindcast skill estimates can overestimate or underestimate the credibility of an individual decadal climate forecast. We show that hindcast skill in a long period can be higher or lower than skill in its subperiods. Instead of using time-averaged hindcast skill measures, we propose to use the physical state of the climate system at the beginning of the forecast to judge its credibility. We analyze hindcasts of North Atlantic sea surface temperature (SST) in an initialized prediction system based on the MPI-ESM-LR for the period 1901–2010. Subpolar North Atlantic Ocean heat transport (OHT) strength at hindcast initialization largely determines the skill of these hindcasts: We find high skill after anomalously strong or weak OHT, but low skill after average OHT. This knowledge can be used to constrain conventional hindcast skill estimates to improve the assessment of credibility for a decadal forecast.