Horizontal resolution impact on short- and long-range forecast error



The impact of horizontal resolution increases from spectral truncation T95 to T799 on the error growth of ECMWF forecasts is analysed. Attention is focused on instantaneous, synoptic-scale features represented by the 500 and 1000 hPa geopotential height and the 850 hPa temperature. Error growth is investigated by applying a three-parameter model, and improvements in forecast skill are assessed by computing the time limits when fractions of the forecast-error asymptotic value are reached. Forecasts are assessed both in a realistic framework against T799 analyses, and in a perfect-model framework against T799 forecasts.

A strong sensitivity to model resolution of the skill of instantaneous forecasts has been found in the short forecast range (say up to about forecast day 3). But sensitivity has shown to become weaker in the medium range (say around forecast day 7) and undetectable in the long forecast range. Considering the predictability of ECMWF operational, high-resolution T799 forecasts of the 500 hPa geopotential height verified in the realistic framework over the Northern Hemisphere (NH), the long-range time limit τ(95%) is 15.2 days, a value that is one day shorter than the limit computed in the perfect-model framework. Considering the 850 hPa temperature verified in the realistic framework, the time limit τ(95%) is 16.6 days for forecasts verified in the realistic framework over the NH (cold season), 14.1 days over the SH (warm season) and 20.6 days over the Tropics.

Although past resolution increases have been providing continuously better forecasts especially in the short forecast range, this investigation suggests that in the future, although further increases in resolution are expected to improve the forecast skill in the short and medium forecast range, simple resolution increases without model improvements would bring only very limited improvements in the long forecast range. Copyright © 2010 Royal Meteorological Society