Articles | Volume 20, issue 5
Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 20, 669–682, 2013

Special issue: Ensemble methods in geophysical sciences

Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 20, 669–682, 2013

Research article 24 Sep 2013

Research article | 24 Sep 2013

Four-dimensional ensemble-variational data assimilation for global deterministic weather prediction

M. Buehner1, J. Morneau2, and C. Charette1 M. Buehner et al.
  • 1Data Assimilation and Satellite Meteorology Research Section, Environment Canada, Dorval, Quebec, Canada
  • 2Data Assimilation and Quality Control Development Section, Environment Canada, Dorval, Quebec, Canada

Abstract. The goal of this study is to evaluate a version of the ensemble-variational data assimilation approach (EnVar) for possible replacement of 4D-Var at Environment Canada for global deterministic weather prediction. This implementation of EnVar relies on 4-D ensemble covariances, obtained from an ensemble Kalman filter, that are combined in a vertically dependent weighted average with simple static covariances. Verification results are presented from a set of data assimilation experiments over two separate 6-week periods that used assimilated observations and model configuration very similar to the currently operational system. To help interpret the comparison of EnVar versus 4D-Var, additional experiments using 3D-Var and a version of EnVar with only 3-D ensemble covariances are also evaluated. To improve the rate of convergence for all approaches evaluated (including EnVar), an estimate of the cost function Hessian generated by the quasi-Newton minimization algorithm is cycled from one analysis to the next.

Analyses from EnVar (with 4-D ensemble covariances) nearly always produce improved, and never degraded, forecasts when compared with 3D-Var. Comparisons with 4D-Var show that forecasts from EnVar analyses have either similar or better scores in the troposphere of the tropics and the winter extra-tropical region. However, in the summer extra-tropical region the medium-range forecasts from EnVar have either similar or worse scores than 4D-Var in the troposphere. In contrast, the 6 h forecasts from EnVar are significantly better than 4D-Var relative to radiosonde observations for both periods and in all regions. The use of 4-D versus 3-D ensemble covariances only results in small improvements in forecast quality. By contrast, the improvements from using 4D-Var versus 3D-Var are much larger. Measurement of the fit of the background and analyzed states to the observations suggests that EnVar and 4D-Var can both make better use of observations distributed over time than 3D-Var. In summary, the results from this study suggest that the EnVar approach is a viable alternative to 4D-Var, especially when the simplicity and computational efficiency of EnVar are considered. Additional research is required to understand the seasonal dependence of the difference in forecast quality between EnVar and 4D-Var in the extra-tropics.