Seasonal Ensemble Forecasts: Are Recalibrated Single Models Better than Multimodels?

Weigel, Andreas P.; Liniger, Mark A.; Appenzeller, Christof
April 2009
Monthly Weather Review;Apr2009, Vol. 137 Issue 4, p1460
Academic Journal
Multimodel ensemble combination (MMEC) has become an accepted technique to improve probabilistic forecasts from short- to long-range time scales. MMEC techniques typically widen ensemble spread, thus improving the dispersion characteristics and the reliability of the forecasts. This raises the question as to whether the same effect could be achieved in a potentially cheaper way by rescaling single model ensemble forecasts a posteriori such that they become reliable. In this study a climate conserving recalibration (CCR) technique is derived and compared with MMEC. With a simple stochastic toy model it is shown that both CCR and MMEC successfully improve forecast reliability. The difference between these two methods is that CCR conserves resolution but inevitably dilutes the potentially predictable signal while MMEC is in the ideal case able to fully retain the predictable signal and to improve resolution. Therefore, MMEC is conceptually to be preferred, particularly since the effect of CCR depends on the length of the data record and on distributional assumptions. In reality, however, multimodels consist only of a finite number of participating single models, and the model errors are often correlated. Under such conditions, and depending on the skill metric applied, CCR-corrected single models can on average have comparable skill as multimodel ensembles, particularly when the potential model predictability is low. Using seasonal near-surface temperature and precipitation forecasts of three models of the Development of a European Multimodel Ensemble System for Seasonal-to-Interannual Prediction (DEMETER) dataset, it is shown that the conclusions drawn from the toy-model experiments hold equally in a real multimodel ensemble prediction system. All in all, it is not possible to make a general statement on whether CCR or MMEC is the better method. Rather it seems that optimum forecasts can be obtained by a combination of both methods, but only if first MMEC and then CCR is applied. The opposite order—first CCR, then MMEC—is shown to be of only little effect, at least in the context of seasonal forecasts.


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