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Hamill, T. M., C. Snyder, and J. S. Whitaker, 2003: Ensemble forecasts and the properties of flow-dependent analysis-error covariance singular vectors. Mon. Wea. Rev., 131, 1741-1758.


Approximations to flow-dependent analysis-error covariance singular vectors (AEC SVs) were calculated in a dry, T31 L15 primitive-equation global model. Sets of 400-member ensembles of analyses were generated by an ensemble-based data assimilation system. A sparse network of simulated rawinsonde observations were assimilated, and a perfect model was assumed. Ensembles of 48-h forecasts were also generated from these analyses. The structure of evolved singular vectors was determined by finding the linear combination of the forecast ensemble members that resulted in the largest forecast-error variance, here measured in a total-energy norm north of 20°N latitude. The same linear combination of analyses specifies the initial-time structure that should evolve to the forecast singular vector under assumptions of linearity of error growth.

The structures of these AEC SVs are important because they represent the analysis-error structures associated with the largest forecast errors. If singular vectors using other initial norms have very different structures, this indicates that these structures may be statistically unlikely to occur. The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts currently uses singular vectors using an initial total-energy norm ["total-energy singular vectors" or (TE SVs)] to generate perturbations to initialize their ensemble forecasts. Approximate TE SVs were also calculated by drawing an initial random ensemble with perturbations that were white in total energy and applying the same approach as for AEC SVs. Comparing AEC SVs and approximate TE SVs, the AEC SVs had maximum amplitude in midlatitudes near the tropopause, both at the initial and evolved times. The AEC SVs were synoptic in scale, deep, and did not appear to be geographically localized nor tilted dramatically upshear. This contrasts with TE SVs, which started off relatively smaller in scale, were tilted upshear, and had amplitudes typically largest in the lower to midtroposphere.

The difference between AEC SVs and TE SVs suggests that operational ensemble forecasts based on TE SVs could be improved by changing the type of singular vector used to generate initial perturbations. This is particularly true for short-range ensemble forecasts, where the structure of the forecast ensemble is more closely tied to the analysis ensemble.