3.2 Climate Reanalysis: Progress and Future Prospects (Invited Presentation)

Monday, 8 January 2018: 2:30 PM
Room 4ABC (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Ronald Gelaro, NASA GSFC, Greenbelt, MD

Reanalysis is the process whereby an unchanging data assimilation system is used to provide a consistent reprocessing of observations, typically spanning an extended segment of the historical data record. The process relies on an underlying model to combine often-disparate observations in a physically consistent manner, enabling production of gridded data sets for a broad range of applications including the study of historical weather events, preparation of climatologies, business sector development and, more recently, climate monitoring. Over the last few decades, several generations of reanalyses of the global atmosphere have been produced by various operational and research centers, focusing more or less on the period of regular conventional and satellite observations beginning in the mid to late twentieth century. There have also been successful efforts to extend atmospheric reanalyses back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, using mostly surface observations. Much progress has resulted from (and contributed to) advancements in numerical weather prediction, especially improved models and data assimilation techniques, increased computing capacity, the availability of new observation types and efforts to recover and improve the quality of historical ones.

The recent extension of forecast systems that allow integrated modeling of meteorological, oceanic, land surface, and chemical variables provide the basic elements for coupled data assimilation. This has opened the door to the development of a new generation of coupled reanalyses of the Earth system, or integrated Earth system analyses (IESA). Evidence so far suggests that this approach can improve the analysis of currently uncoupled components of the Earth system, especially at their interface, and lead to increased predictability. However, extensive analysis coupling as envisioned for IESA, while progressing, still presents significant challenges. These include model biases that can be exacerbated when coupled, component systems with different physical characteristics and different spatial and temporal scales, and component observations in different media with different spatial and temporal frequencies and different latencies. Quantification of uncertainty in reanalyses is also a critical challenge and is important for expanding their utility as a tool for climate change assessment. This talk provides a brief overview of the progress of reanalysis development during recent decades, and describes remaining challenges in the progression toward coupled Earth system reanalyses.

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