Issues in targeted observing

(Invited paper for the Q. J. R. Meteorol. Soc. special symposium issue)


  • Fourth WMO international symposium on assimilation of observations in meteorology and oceanography, Prague, Czech Republic, 18–22 April 2005.


This paper summarizes successes and limitations of targeted observing field programmes starting from the Fronts and Atlantic Storm-Track Experiment in 1997 through recent programmes targeting winter storms and tropical cyclones. These field programmes have produced average reductions in short-range forecast errors of about 10 per cent over regional verification areas, and maximum forecast error reductions as large as 50 per cent in certain cases. The majority of targeting cases investigated so far involve sets of dropsondes and other observation data that provide partial coverage of target areas. The primary scientific challenges for targeting include the refinement of objective methods that can identify optimal times and locations for targeted observations, as well as identify the specific types of satellite and in situ measurements that are required for the improvement of numerical weather forecasts. The most advanced targeting procedures, at present, include: the ensemble transform Kalman Filter, Hessian singular vectors, and observation-space targeting using the adjoint of a variational data assimilation procedure. Targeted observing remains an active research topic in numerical weather prediction, with plans for continued refinement of objective targeting procedures, and field tests of new satellite and in situ observing systems. Copyright © 2005 Royal Meteorological Society