Mesoscale predictability of moist baroclinic waves: Variable and scale-dependent error growth

Naifang Bei, Fuqing Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


This study seeks to quantify the predictability of different forecast variables at various scales through spectral analysis of the difference between perturbed and unperturbed cloud-permitting simulations of idealized moist baroclinic waves amplifying in a conditionally unstable atmosphere. The error growth of a forecast variable is found to be strongly associated with its reference-state (unperturbed) power spectrum and slope, which differ significantly from variable to variable. The shallower the reference state spectrum, the more spectral energy resides at smaller scales, and thus the less predictable the variable since the error grows faster at smaller scales before it saturates. In general, the variables with more small-scale components (such as vertical velocity) are less predictable, and vice versa (such as pressure). In higher-resolution simulations in which more rigorous small-scale instabilities become better resolved, the error grows faster at smaller scales and spreads to larger scales more quickly before the error saturates at those small scales during the first few hours of the forecast. Based on the reference power spectrum, an index on the degree of lack (or loss) of predictability (LPI) is further defined to quantify the predictive time scale of each forecast variable. Future studies are needed to investigate the scale- and variable-dependent predictability under different background reference flows, including real case studies through ensemble experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)995-1008
Number of pages14
JournalAdvances in Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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