High clouds over oceans in the ECMWF 15-year and 45-year re-analyses

High clouds over oceans in the ECMWF 15-year and 45-year re-analyses
Date Published
ERA-40 Project Report Series
Document Number
F. Chevallier
G.A. Kelly
S. Uppala
Angeles Hernandez
Event Series/Collection
ERA Report
Abstract The re-analysis programmes of numerical weather prediction (NWP) centres provide global, comprehensive descriptions of the atmosphere and of the Earth surface over long periods of time. The high realism of their representation of key NWP parameters, like temperature and winds, implies some realism for less emblematic parameters, such as cloud cover, but the degree of this realism needs to be documented. This study aims to evaluate the high clouds over open oceans in the ECMWF 15-yr and 45-yr re-analyses. The assessment is based on a new 23-yr climatology of monthly frequencies of high cloud occurrence retrieved from the infrared radiances measured by operational polar satellites. It is complemented by data from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project. It is shown that the 45-yr ECMWF re-analysis dramatically improves on the previous 15-yr re-analysis for the realism of seasonal and interannual variations in high clouds, despite remaining systematic errors. Morethan 60% of the observed anomalies during the January 1979 - February 2002 period in large oceanic basins are captured by the latest re-analysis. However the realism of the analyses in the areas and in the years withsparse observations appears to be poor. Consequently, the interannual variations may not be reliable before January 1979 in most parts of the world. Possible improvements of the handling of assimilated satellite observations before and after this date are suggested.