Initial condition uncertainty is a significant source of forecast error in numerical weather prediction. Singular vectors of the tangent linear propagator can identify directions in phase-space where initial errors are likely to make the largest contribution to forecast-error variance. The physical characteristics of these singular vectors depend on the choice of initial-time metric used to represent analysis-error covariances: the total-energy norm serves as a proxy to the analysis-error covariance matrix, whereas the Hessian of the cost function of a 4D-Var assimilation scheme represents a more sophisticated estimate of the analysis-error covariances, consistent with observation and background-error covariances used in the 4D-Var scheme.
This study examines and compares the structure of singular vectors computed with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Integrated Forecasting System using these two types of initial metrics. Unlike earlier studies that use background errors derived from lagged forecast differences (the NMC method), the background-error covariance matrix in the Hessian metric is based on statistics from an ensemble of 4D-Vars using perturbed observations, which produces tighter correlations of background-error statistics than in previous formulations. In light of these new background-error statistics, this article re-examines the properties of Hessian singular vectors (and their relationship to total-energy singular vectors) using cases from different periods between 2003 and 2005. Energy profiles and wavenumber spectra reveal that the total-energy singular vectors are similar to Hessian singular vectors that use all observation types in the operational 4D-Var assimilation. This is in contrast to the structure of Hessian singular vectors without observations. Increasing the observation density tends to reduce the spatial scale of the Hessian singular vectors. Copyright © 2009 Royal Meteorological Society