Articles | Volume 23, issue 1
Research article
26 Jan 2016
Research article |  | 26 Jan 2016

Diagnosing non-Gaussianity of forecast and analysis errors in a convective-scale model

R. Legrand, Y. Michel, and T. Montmerle

Abstract. In numerical weather prediction, the problem of estimating initial conditions with a variational approach is usually based on a Bayesian framework associated with a Gaussianity assumption of the probability density functions of both observations and background errors. In practice, Gaussianity of errors is tied to linearity, in the sense that a nonlinear model will yield non-Gaussian probability density functions. In this context, standard methods relying on Gaussian assumption may perform poorly.

This study aims to describe some aspects of non-Gaussianity of forecast and analysis errors in a convective-scale model using a Monte Carlo approach based on an ensemble of data assimilations. For this purpose, an ensemble of 90 members of cycled perturbed assimilations has been run over a highly precipitating case of interest. Non-Gaussianity is measured using the K2 statistics from the D'Agostino test, which is related to the sum of the squares of univariate skewness and kurtosis.

Results confirm that specific humidity is the least Gaussian variable according to that measure and also that non-Gaussianity is generally more pronounced in the boundary layer and in cloudy areas. The dynamical control variables used in our data assimilation, namely vorticity and divergence, also show distinct non-Gaussian behaviour. It is shown that while non-Gaussianity increases with forecast lead time, it is efficiently reduced by the data assimilation step especially in areas well covered by observations. Our findings may have implication for the choice of the control variables.