The Met. Office has developed a variational assimilation for its Unified Model forecast system, which contains a grid-point mode) that is run operationally in global, mesoscale, and stratospheric configuration. Key characteristics of the design are:
- •a development path from three-dimensional to four-dimensional variational assimilation;
- •global and limited-area configurations;
- •variational analysis of perturbations;
- •and a carefully designed, well conditioned background term.
The background term is implemented using a sequence of variable transforms to independent balanced and unbalanced variables, to vertical modes, and to spectral coefficients. The coefficients used are based on statistics from differences of one- and two-day forecasts valid at the same time. The covariance model represents many of the features seen in the covariances of forecast differences.
The three-dimensional variational data assimilation (3D-Var) system was implemented in the operational global forecast system on 29 March 1999. In parallel trials, the 3D-Var system gave a 2.7% improvement in a composite skill score (verified against observations and weighted according to the importance of each field).