Climate Dynamics

, Volume 41, Issue 9–10, pp 2785–2795 | Cite as

Improved reliability of ENSO hindcasts with multi-ocean analyses ensemble initialization

  • Jieshun ZhuEmail author
  • Bohua Huang
  • Magdalena A. Balmaseda
  • James L. KinterIII
  • Peitao Peng
  • Zeng-Zhen Hu
  • Lawrence Marx
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Climate Forecast System Version 2 (CFSv2)


Currently, ensemble seasonal forecasts using a single model with multiple perturbed initial conditions generally suffer from an “overconfidence” problem, i.e., the ensemble evolves such that the spread among members is small, compared to the magnitude of the mean error. This has motivated the use of a multi-model ensemble (MME), a technique that aims at sampling the structural uncertainty in the forecasting system. Here we investigate how the structural uncertainty in the ocean initial conditions impacts the reliability in seasonal forecasts, by using a new ensemble generation method to be referred to as the multiple-ocean analysis ensemble (MAE) initialization. In the MAE method, multiple ocean analyses are used to build an ensemble of ocean initial states, thus sampling structural uncertainties in oceanic initial conditions (OIC) originating from errors in the ocean model, the forcing flux, and the measurements, especially in areas and times of insufficient observations, as well as from the dependence on data assimilation methods. The merit of MAE initialization is demonstrated by the improved El Niño and the Southern Oscillation (ENSO) forecasting reliability. In particular, compared with the atmospheric perturbation or lagged ensemble approaches, the MAE initialization more effectively enhances ensemble dispersion in ENSO forecasting. A quantitative probabilistic measure of reliability also indicates that the MAE method performs better in forecasting all three (warm, neutral and cold) categories of ENSO events. In addition to improving seasonal forecasts, the MAE strategy may be used to identify the characteristics of the current structural uncertainty and as guidance for improving the observational network and assimilation strategy. Moreover, although the MAE method is not expected to totally correct the overconfidence of seasonal forecasts, our results demonstrate that OIC uncertainty is one of the major sources of forecast overconfidence, and suggest that the MAE is an essential component of an MME system.


ENSO prediction Reliability Multi-ocean analyses ensemble CFSv2 



Funding for this study was provided by grants from NSF (ATM-0830068), NOAA (NA09OAR4310058), and NASA (NNX09AN50G). The authors would like to thank Dr. J. Shukla for his guidance and support of this project. We thank ECMWF and NCEP for providing their ocean data assimilation analysis datasets, which made this project possible. The authors gratefully acknowledge NCEP for the CFSv2 model made available to COLA. Computing resources provided by NAS are also gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jieshun Zhu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Bohua Huang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Magdalena A. Balmaseda
    • 3
  • James L. KinterIII
    • 1
    • 2
  • Peitao Peng
    • 4
  • Zeng-Zhen Hu
    • 4
  • Lawrence Marx
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere Studies, 270 Research Hall, Mail Stop 6C5George Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA
  2. 2.Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Earth Sciences, College of ScienceGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA
  3. 3.European Centre for Medium-Range Weather ForecastsReadingUK
  4. 4.Climate Prediction CenterNational Centers for Environmental Prediction/NOAACollege ParkUSA

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