Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Summer Forecast Verification

This is just a quick follow-up to a post from way back in May, where I showed the Climate Prediction Center's summer forecast and commented on a possible connection between equatorial winds in the stratosphere and summer rainfall in parts of Alaska.  Here's the post:


Let's see how well the CPC forecast did.  First, for temperature: compare the maps below.  The second map shows the estimated summer temperature anomaly (departure from 1981-2010 normal) from the new start-of-the-art ERA5 reanalysis.  The forecast was a strong success, with the very high (>60%) chance of significantly above-normal temperatures in southern and western Alaska being fully justified by the exceptionally warm summer that actually occurred.

Second, for precipitation.  The ERA5 verification map indicates that the wet tilt to the forecast verified as correct for the North Slope, but most of the interior, south, and west was near normal or below normal for summer rainfall.  The expectation for widespread above-normal precipitation was therefore not correct, although the tilt in the probabilities was small and this would be considered only a minor forecast bust.

The ERA5 reanalysis is, of course, only a model, so let's take a second look using gridded precipitation data based solely on surface observations (available only over land).  This shows a wet summer on the Seward Peninsula, which is confirmed by Nome's 10" of summer rain - it was one of the wetter summers in Nome's history.  So this certainly provides some vindication for the CPC forecast.

In my earlier post I suggested that the phase of the equatorial Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO) might produce a drier tendency over northwestern Alaska than the CPC was expecting.  While it did indeed turn out drier in much of the interior, neither of the two locations I cited as showing a QBO influence - Bettles and Kotzebue - had a dry July-August period.  So I won't make any bold claims about this being a success, but it is possible that consideration of the QBO phase might have improved the CPC precip forecast slightly.

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