Evaluation of surface analyses and forecasts with a multiscale ensemble Kalman filter in regions of complex terrain

Brian C. Ancell, Clifford F. Mass, Gregory J. Hakim

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26 Scopus citations


Previous research suggests that an ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF) data assimilation and modeling system can produce accurate atmospheric analyses and forecasts at 30-50-km grid spacing. This study examines the ability of a mesoscale EnKF system using multiscale (36/12 km) Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model simulations to produce high-resolution, accurate, regional surface analyses, and 6-h forecasts. This study takes place over the complex terrain of the Pacific Northwest, where the small-scale features of the near-surface flow field make the region particularly attractive for testing an EnKF and its flow-dependent background error covariances. A variety of EnKF experiments are performed over a 5-week period to test the impact of decreasing the grid spacing from 36 to 12 km and to evaluate new approaches for dealing with representativeness error, lack of surface background variance, and low-level bias. All verification in this study is performed with independent, unassimilated observations. Significant surface analysis and 6-h forecast improvements are found when EnKF grid spacing is reduced from 36 to 12 km. Forecast improvements appear to be a consequence of increased resolution during model integration, whereas analysis improvements also benefit from high-resolution ensemble covariances during data assimilation. On the 12-km domain, additional analysis improvements are found by reducing observation error variance in order to address representativeness error. Removing model surface biases prior to assimilation significantly enhances the analysis. Inflating surface wind and temperature background error variance has large impacts on analyses, but only produces small improvements in analysis RMS errors. Both surface and upper-air 6-h forecasts are nearly unchanged in the 12-km experiments. Last, 12-km WRF EnKF surface analyses and 6-h forecasts are shown to generally outperform those of the Global Forecast System (GFS), North American Model (NAM), and the Rapid Update Cycle (RUC) by about 10%-30%, although these improvements do not extend above the surface. Based on these results, future improvements in multiscale EnKF are suggested.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2008-2024
Number of pages17
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Complex terrain
  • Data assimilation
  • Kalman filters
  • Model evaluation/performance
  • Numerical weather prediction/forecasting
  • Surface observations


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