Robust skill of decadal climate predictions

2019 - npj Clim Atmos Sci 2, 13 (2019)


Smith, D.M.

Additional authors:

Eade, R., Scaife, A.A., Caron, L.-P., Danabasoglu, G., DelSole, T. M., Delworth, T., Doblas-Reyes, F.J., Dunstone, N.J., Hermanson, L., Kharin, V., Kimoto, M., Merryfield, W.J., Mochizuki, T., Müller, W.A., Pohlmann, P., Yeager, S., Yang, X.




There is a growing need for skilful predictions of climate up to a decade ahead. Decadal climate predictions show high skill for surface temperature, but confidence in forecasts of precipitation and atmospheric circulation is much lower. Recent advances in seasonal and annual prediction show that the signal-to-noise ratio can be too small in climate models, requiring a very large ensemble to extract the predictable signal. Here, we reassess decadal prediction skill using a much larger ensemble than previously available, and reveal significant skill for precipitation over land and atmospheric circulation, in addition to surface temperature. We further propose a more powerful approach than used previously to evaluate the benefit of initialisation with observations, improving our understanding of the sources of skill. Our results show that decadal climate is more predictable than previously thought and will aid society to prepare for, and adapt to, ongoing climate variability and change.