The ECMWF Ensemble Prediction System: Methodology and validation



The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Ensemble Prediction System (EPS) is described. In addition to an unperturbed (control) forecast, each ensemble comprises 32 10-day forecasts starting from initial conditions in which dynamically defined perturbations have been added to the operational analysis. The perturbations are constructed from singular vectors of a time-evolution operator linearized around the short-range-forecast trajectory. These singular vectors approximately determine the most unstable phase-space directions in the early part of the forecast period, and are estimated using a forward and adjoint linear version of the ECMWF numerical weather-prediction model. An appropriate norm is chosen, and relationships between the structures of these singular vectors at initial time and patterns showing the sensitivity of short-range forecast error to changes in the analysis are discussed. A methodology to perform a phase-space rotation of the singular vectors is described, which generates hemispheric-wide perturbations and renormalizes them according to analysis-error estimates from the data-assimilation system.

The validation of the ensembles is given firstly in terms of scatter diagrams and contingency tables of ensemble spread and control-forecast skill. The contingency tables are compared with those from a perfect-model ensemble system; no significant differences are found in some cases. Brier scores for the probability of European flow clusters are presented, which indicate predictive skill up to forecast-day 8 with respect to climatological probabilities. The dependence of these scores on flow-dependent model errors is also discussed. Finally, ensemble-member skill-score distributions are presented, which confirm the overall satisfactory performance of the EPS, particularly in summer and autumn 1993. In winter, cases of poor performance over Europe were associated with the occurrence of a split westerly flow with a blocking high and/or a cut-off low in the verifying analysis.

Two cases are studied in detail, one having large ensemble dispersion, the other corresponding to a more predictable situation. The case studies are used to illustrate the range of ensemble products routinely disseminated to ECMWF Member States. These products include clusters of flow types, and probability fields of weather elements.