Limits, variability, and general behavior of statistical predictability of the midlatitude atmosphere

Richard Kleeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The nature of statistical predictability is analyzed in a T42 global atmospheric model that is able to adequately capture the main features of the midlatitude atmosphere. Key novel features of the present study include very large prediction ensembles and information theoretic techniques. It is found globally that predictability declines in a quasi-linear fashion with time for short-term predictions (3-25 days), while for long ranges (30-45 days) there is an exponential tail. In general, beyond 45 days the prediction and climatological ensembles have essentially converged, which means that beyond that point, atmospheric initial conditions are irrelevant to atmospheric statistical prediction. Regional predictions show considerable variation in behavior. Both of the (northern) winter storm-track regions show a close-to-quasi-linear decline in predictability toward a cutoff at around 40 days. The (southern) summer storm track shows a much more exponential and considerably slower decline with a small amount of predictability still in evidence even at 90 days. Because the winter storm tracks dominate global variance the behavior of their predictability tends to dominate the global measure, except at longer lags. Variability in predictability with respect to initial conditions is also examined, and it is found that this is related more strongly to ensemble signal rather than ensemble spread. This result may serve to explain why the relation between weather forecast skill and ensemble spread is often observed to be significantly less than perfect. Results herein suggest that the ensemble signal as well as spread variations may be a major contributor to skill variations. Finally, it is found that the sensitivity of the calculated global predictability to changes in model horizontal resolution is not large; results from a T85 resolution model are not qualitatively all that different from the T42 case.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-275
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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