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Impact of different ocean reanalyses on decadal climate prediction


We study the impact of three ocean state estimates (GECCO, SODA, [ECMWF]-ORA-S3) on decadal predictability in one particular forecast system, the Earth system model from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg. The forecast procedure follows two steps. First, anomalies of temperature and salinity of the observational estimates are assimilated into our coupled model. Second, the assimilation runs are then used to initialize 10-year-long hindcasts/forecasts starting from each year between 1960 and 2001. The impact of the individual ocean state estimates is evaluated both by the extent to which climate variations from the ocean state estimates are adopted by the forecast system (‘fidelity’) and by the prediction skill of the corresponding hindcast experiments. The evaluation focuses on North Atlantic (NA) sea surface temperature (SST), upper-level (0–700 m) NA ocean heat content (OHC) and the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (MOC). Regarding fidelity, correlations between observations and the assimilation runs are generally high for NA SST and NA OHC, except for NA OHC in the GECCO assimilation. MOC variations experience strong modifications when GECCO and SODA are assimilated, much less so when assimilating ORA-S3. Regarding prediction skill, when initializing with ORA-S3 and SODA, correlations with observations are high for NA OHC and moderate for NA SST. Correlations in case of GECCO, on the other hand, are high for NA SST and moderate for NA OHC. Relatively high MOC correlations between hindcasts and respective assimilation run appear in the first five years in GECCO in the tropics and subtropics and in ORA-S3 north of 50N. Correlations are largely reduced when the MOC signals are detrended. The trends in the assimilation runs are to some extent artifacts of the assimilation procedure. Hence, our potential predictabilities of the MOC are optimistic estimates of the upper limits of predictability. However, the ORA-S3 reanalysis gives the best results for our forecast system as measured by both overall fidelity of the assimilation procedure and predictions of upper-level OHC in the North Atlantic.

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We thank Zoltan Szuts and two anonymous reviewers for many helpful comments on the manuscript. The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community’s 7th framework programme (FP7/2007–2013) under grant agreements No. 212643 (THOR: “Thermohaline Overturning – at Risk?”, 2008–2012) and No. 226520 (COMBINE: “Comprehensive Modelling of the Earth System for Better Climate Prediction and Projection”, 2009–2013) and from the German Research Council within the framework of the Cluster of Excellence “Integrated Climate System Analysis and Prediction” (CliSAP).

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Correspondence to Jürgen Kröger.

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Kröger, J., Müller, W.A. & von Storch, JS. Impact of different ocean reanalyses on decadal climate prediction. Clim Dyn 39, 795–810 (2012).

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