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How Global Warming Changes the Difficulty of Synoptic Weather Forecasting
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Meteorology .
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Meteorology . Uppsala University, Sweden.
Number of Authors: 22019 (English)In: Geophysical Research Letters, ISSN 0094-8276, E-ISSN 1944-8007, Vol. 46, no 5, p. 2931-2939Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Global warming projections point to a wide range of impacts on the climate system, including changes in storm track activity and more frequent and intense extreme weather events. Little is however known on whether and how global warming may affect the atmosphere's predictability and thus our ability to produce accurate weather forecasts. Here, we combine a state-of-the-art climate and a state-of-the-art ensemble weather prediction model to show that, in a business-as-usual 21st century setting, global warming could significantly change the predictability of the atmosphere, defined here via the expected error of weather predictions. Predictability of synoptic weather situations could significantly increase, especially in the Northern Hemisphere. This can be explained by a decrease in the meridional temperature gradient. Contrarily, summertime predictability of weekly rainfall sums might significantly decrease in most regions. Plain Language Summary Due to the chaotic nature of the atmosphere, it is impossible to make weather forecasts that are completely accurate. Therefore, all weather forecasts are inherently uncertain to a certain degree. However, this uncertainty-and thus the difficulty of making good forecastsis not the same for all forecasts. This opens up the highly important question whether global warming will affect the difficulty of weather forecasts. Due to the enormous socioeconomic importance of accurate weather forecasts, it is essential to know whether climate change adaption policies also need to take into account potential changes in the difficulty and accuracy of weather forecasts. We show that in a warmer world, it will be easier to predict fields such as temperature and pressure. Contrarily, it will be harder to make accurate precipitation forecasts, which might strongly affect both disaster prevention and rainfall-dependent industries such as the energy sector, all of which heavily rely on accurate precipitation forecasts. Additionally, we show that the uncertainty of predictions of pressure fields is to a large extent controlled by fluctuations in the temperature difference between the North Pole and the equator. This is a new and important insight into the fundamentals of weather forecast uncertainty.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. Vol. 46, no 5, p. 2931-2939
Keywords [en]
ensemble forecasts, climate change, forecast uncertainty, synoptic meteorology
National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-168376DOI: 10.1029/2018GL081856ISI: 000462612900066OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-168376DiVA, id: diva2:1314155
Available from: 2019-05-07 Created: 2019-05-07 Last updated: 2019-05-07Bibliographically approved

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