The impact of horizontal resolution and ensemble size on probabilistic forecasts of precipitation by the ECMWF ensemble prediction system

Steven L. Mullen, Roberto Buizza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations

Abstract

The effect of horizontal resolution and ensemble size on the ECMWF Ensemble Prediction System (EPS) is assessed for probabilistic forecasts of 24-h accumulated precipitation. Two sets of experiments are analyzed. The primary experiment compares two spectral truncations (total wavenumbers 159 and 255) for 30 summer and 57 winter dates. An auxiliary experiment compares three truncations (total wavenumbers 159, 255, and 319) for 16 initial dates (8 cool- and 8 warm-season events) during which heavy precipitation (>50 mm) occurred over the eastern United States at day 5 of the forecast. Rain gauge data from the River Forecast Centers of NOAA are used for verification. Skill is measured relative to long-term climatic frequencies, and the statistical significance of differences in the accuracy among the forecasts is estimated. Finer model resolution produces statistically significant improvements in EPS performance for ensemble configurations with the same number of members, especially for lighter thresholds (1 and 10 mm day-1). Performance changes somewhat when ensemble configurations with different resolutions and ensemble sizes, but equivalent computational costs, are compared for the heavier amounts (20 and 50 mm day-1). Coarser-resolution, larger-member ensembles can outperform higher-resolution, smaller-member ensembles in terms of ability to predict rare (in terms of climatic frequency of occurrence) precipitation events. The overall conclusion is that probabilistic forecasts of precipitation from large ensemble sizes at lower resolution can be more valuable to users and decision makers than probabilistic forecasts from smaller ensemble sizes at higher resolution, particularly when heavy precipitation occurs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-191
Number of pages19
JournalWeather and Forecasting
Volume17
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

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