Climate Dynamics

, Volume 37, Issue 7, pp 1601-1620

First online:

An assessment of the surface climate in the NCEP climate forecast system reanalysis

  • Wanqiu WangAffiliated withClimate Prediction Center, NCEP/NWS/NOAA Email author 
  • , Pingping XieAffiliated withClimate Prediction Center, NCEP/NWS/NOAA
  • , Soo-Hyun YooAffiliated withClimate Prediction Center, NCEP/NWS/NOAA
  • , Yan XueAffiliated withClimate Prediction Center, NCEP/NWS/NOAA
  • , Arun KumarAffiliated withClimate Prediction Center, NCEP/NWS/NOAA
  • , Xingren WuAffiliated withEnvironmental Modeling Center, NCEP/NWS/NOAA

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This paper analyzes surface climate variability in the climate forecast system reanalysis (CFSR) recently completed at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). The CFSR represents a new generation of reanalysis effort with first guess from a coupled atmosphere–ocean–sea ice–land forecast system. This study focuses on the analysis of climate variability for a set of surface variables including precipitation, surface air 2-m temperature (T2m), and surface heat fluxes. None of these quantities are assimilated directly and thus an assessment of their variability provides an independent measure of the accuracy. The CFSR is compared with observational estimates and three previous reanalyses (the NCEP/NCAR reanalysis or R1, the NCEP/DOE reanalysis or R2, and the ERA40 produced by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts). The CFSR has improved time-mean precipitation distribution over various regions compared to the three previous reanalyses, leading to a better representation of freshwater flux (evaporation minus precipitation). For interannual variability, the CFSR shows improved precipitation correlation with observations over the Indian Ocean, Maritime Continent, and western Pacific. The T2m of the CFSR is superior to R1 and R2 with more realistic interannual variability and long-term trend. On the other hand, the CFSR overestimates downward solar radiation flux over the tropical Western Hemisphere warm pool, consistent with a negative cloudiness bias and a positive sea surface temperature bias. Meanwhile, the evaporative latent heat flux in CFSR appears to be larger than other observational estimates over most of the globe. A few deficiencies in the long-term variations are identified in the CFSR. Firstly, dramatic changes are found around 1998–2001 in the global average of a number of variables, possibly related to the changes in the assimilated satellite observations. Secondly, the use of multiple streams for the CFSR induces spurious jumps in soil moisture between adjacent streams. Thirdly, there is an inconsistency in long-term sea ice extent variations over the Arctic regions between the CFSR and other observations with the CFSR showing smaller sea ice extent before 1997 and larger extent starting in 1997. These deficiencies may have impacts on the application of the CFSR for climate diagnoses and predictions. Relationships between surface heat fluxes and SST tendency and between SST and precipitation are analyzed and compared with observational estimates and other reanalyses. Global mean fields of surface heat and water fluxes together with radiation fluxes at the top of the atmosphere are documented and presented over the entire globe, and for the ocean and land separately.


Climate forecast system reanalysis Atmospheric reanalysis Surface climate variability Long-term trend