Improvement in the decadal prediction skill of the North Atlantic extratropical winter circulation through increased model resolution

2019 - Earth Syst. Dynam. Discuss.


Schuster, M.

Additional authors:

Grieger, J., Richling, A., Schartner, T., Illing, S., Kadow, C., Müller, W. A., Pohlmann, H., Pfahl, S., Ulbrich, U.




In this study the latest version of the MiKlip decadal hindcast system is analyzed and the effect of different horizontal and vertical resolutions on the prediction skill of the northern hemisphere extra-tropical atmospheric circulation is assessed. Four metrics – the stormtrack, blocking frequencies, cyclone frequencies and windstorm frequencies – are analyzed with respect to the anomaly correlation of their winter averages. The model bias and hindcast skill are evaluated in both, a lower resolution version (LR, atm: T63L47, ocean: 1.5° L40) and a higher resolution version (HR, atm: T127L95, ocean: 0.4° L40) of the MPI-ESM system, for the lead years 2–5 using initializations between 1978 and 2012. While the LR version shows common shortcomings of lower resolution climate models, e.g. a too zonal stormtrack and a negative bias of blocking frequencies over the eastern North Atlantic and Europe, the HR version works against these biases. As a result, a functional chain of significantly improved decadal prediction skill between all four metrics is found with the increase of the spatial resolution. While the stormtrack, is significantly improved primarily over the main source region of synoptic activity – the North Atlantic Current, the other extra-tropical measures experience a significant improvement downstream thereof. Thus, the skill of the cyclone frequencies is significantly improved over the central North Atlantic and Northern Europe, the skill of the blocking frequencies is significantly improved over the Mediterranean, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe and the skill of the windstorms is significantly improved over Newfoundland and Central Europe. Not only is the skill improved with the increase in resolution, but the HR system itself exhibits significant skill over large areas of the North Atlantic and European sector for all four circulation metrics. These results are particularly promising regarding the high socio-economic impact of European winter windstorms and blocking situations.