Coupled Data Assimilation for Integrated Earth System Analysis and Prediction: Goals, Challenges, and Recommendations
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Coupled Data Assimilation for Integrated Earth System Analysis and Prediction: Goals, Challenges, and Recommendations
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    The purpose of this report is to identify fundamental issues for coupled data assimilation (CDA), such as gaps in science and limitations in forecasting systems, in order to provide guidance to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on how to facilitate more rapid progress internationally. Coupled Earth system modeling provides the opportunity to extend skillful atmospheric forecasts beyond the traditional two-week barrier by extracting skill from low-frequency state components such as the land, ocean, and sea ice. More generally, coupled models are needed to support seamless prediction systems that span timescales from weather, subseasonal to seasonal (S2S), multiyear, and decadal. Therefore, initialization methods are needed for coupled Earth system models, either applied to each individual component (called Weakly Coupled Data Assimilation - WCDA) or applied the coupled Earth system model as a whole (called Strongly Coupled Data Assimilation - SCDA). Using CDA, in which model forecasts and potentially the state estimation are performed jointly, each model domain benefits from observations in other domains either directly using error covariance information known at the time of the analysis (SCDA), or indirectly through flux interactions at the model boundaries (WCDA). Because the non-atmospheric domains are generally under-observed compared to the atmosphere, CDA provides a significant advantage over single-domain analyses. Next, we provide a synopsis of goals, challenges, and recommendations to advance CDA: Goals: (a) Extend predictive skill beyond the current capability of NWP (e.g. as demonstrated by improving forecast skill scores), (b) produce physically consistent initial conditions for coupled numerical prediction systems and reanalyses (including consistent fluxes at the domain interfaces), (c) make best use of existing observations by allowing observations from each domain to influence and improve the full earth system analysis, (d) develop a robust observation-based identification and understanding of mechanisms that determine the variability of weather and climate, (e) identify critical weaknesses in coupled models and the earth observing system, (f) generate full-field estimates of unobserved or sparsely observed variables, (g) improve the estimation of the external forcings causing changes to climate, (h) transition successes from idealized CDA experiments to real-world applications. Challenges: (a) Modeling at the interfaces between interacting components of coupled Earth system models may be inadequate for estimating uncertainty or error covariances between domains, (b) current data assimilation methods may be insufficient to simultaneously analyze domains containing multiple spatiotemporal scales of interest, (c) there is no standardization of observation data or their delivery systems across domains, (d) the size and complexity of many large-scale coupled Earth system models makes it is difficult to accurately represent uncertainty due to model parameters and coupling parameters, (e) model errors lead to local biases that can transfer between the different Earth system components and lead to coupled model biases and long-term model drift, (e) information propagation across model components with different spatiotemporal scales is extremely complicated, and must be improved in current coupled modeling frameworks, (h) there is insufficient knowledge on how to represent evolving errors in non-atmospheric model components (e.g. as sea ice, land and ocean) on the timescales of NWP.
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