Using ensembles for short-range forecasting

David J. Stensrud, Harold E. Brooks, Jun Du, M. Steven Tracton, Eric Rogers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

175 Scopus citations


Numerical forecasts from a pilot program on short-range ensemble forecasting at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction are examined. The ensemble consists of 10 forecasts made using the 80-km Eta Model and 5 forecasts from the regional spectral model. Results indicate that the accuracy of the ensemble mean is comparable to that from the 29-km Meso Eta Model for both mandatory level data and the 36-h forecast cyclone position. Calculations of spread indicate that at 36 and 48 h the spread from initial conditions created using the breeding of growing modes technique is larger than the spread from initial conditions created using different analyses. However, the accuracy of the forecast cyclone position from these two initialization techniques is nearly identical. Results further indicate that using two different numerical models assists in increasing the ensemble spread significantly. There is little correlation between the spread in the ensemble members and the accuracy of the ensemble mean for the prediction of cyclone location. Since information on forecast uncertainty is needed in many applications, and is one of the reasons to use an ensemble approach, the lack of a correlation between spread and forecast uncertainty presents a challenge to the production of short-range ensemble forecasts. Even though the ensemble dispersion is not found to be an indication of forecast uncertainty, significant spread can occur within the forecasts over a relatively short time period. Examples are shown to illustrate how small uncertainties in the model initial conditions can lead to large differences in numerical forecasts from an identical numerical model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)433-446
Number of pages14
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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