Selected Article


A comparison of recent reanalysis datasets using objective feature tracking: Storm tracks and tropical easterly waves


Data from four recent reanalysis projects [ECMWF, NCEP-NCAR, NCEP - Department of Energy ( DOE), NASA] have been diagnosed at the scale of synoptic weather systems using an objective feature tracking method. The tracking statistics indicate that, overall, the reanalyses correspond very well in the Northern Hemisphere (NH) lower troposphere, although differences for the spatial distribution of mean intensities show that the ECMWF reanalysis is systematically stronger in the main storm track regions but weaker around major orographic features. A direct comparison of the track ensembles indicates a number of systems with a broad range of intensities that compare well among the reanalyses. In addition, a number of small-scale weak systems are found that have no correspondence among the reanalyses or that only correspond upon relaxing the matching criteria, indicating possible differences in location and/or temporal coherence. These are distributed throughout the storm tracks, particularly in the regions known for small-scale activity, such as secondary development regions and the Mediterranean. For the Southern Hemisphere (SH), agreement is found to be generally less consistent in the lower troposphere with significant differences in both track density and mean intensity. The systems that correspond between the various reanalyses are considerably reduced and those that do not match span a broad range of storm intensities. Relaxing the matching criteria indicates that there is a larger degree of uncertainty in both the location of systems and their intensities compared with the NH. At upper-tropospheric levels, significant differences in the level of activity occur between the ECMWF reanalysis and the other reanalyses in both the NH and SH winters. This occurs due to a lack of coherence in the apparent propagation of the systems in ERA15 and appears most acute above 500 hPa. This is probably due to the use of optimal interpolation data assimilation in ERA15. Also shown are results based on using the same techniques to diagnose the tropical easterly wave activity. Results indicate that the wave activity is sensitive not only to the resolution and assimilation methods used but also to the model formulation.