Evaluation of ECMWF medium-range ensemble forecasts of precipitation for river basins

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Abstract

Providing probabilistic forecasts using Ensemble Prediction Systems has become increasingly popular in both the meteorological and hydrological communities. Compared to conventional deterministic forecasts, probabilistic forecasts may provide more reliable forecasts of a few hours to a number of days ahead, and hence are regarded as better tools for taking uncertainties into consideration and hedging against weather risks. It is essential to evaluate performance of raw ensemble forecasts and their potential values in forecasting extreme hydro-meteorological events. This study evaluates ECMWF's medium-range ensemble forecasts of precipitation over the period 1 January 2008 to 30 September 2012 on a selected midlatitude large-scale river basin, the Huai river basin (ca. 270 000 km2) in central-east China. The evaluation unit is sub-basin in order to consider forecast performance in a hydrologically relevant way. The study finds that forecast performance varies with sub-basin properties, between flooding and non-flooding seasons, and with the forecast properties of aggregated time steps and lead times. Although the study does not evaluate any hydrological applications of the ensemble precipitation forecasts, its results have direct implications in hydrological forecasts should these ensemble precipitation forecasts be employed in hydrology.

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