Journal cover Journal topic
Geoscientific Model Development An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Geosci. Model Dev., 7, 1451-1465, 2014
© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Methods for assessment of models
16 Jul 2014
Comparison of the ensemble Kalman filter and 4D-Var assimilation methods using a stratospheric tracer transport model
S. Skachko1, Q. Errera1, R. Ménard2, Y. Christophe1, and S. Chabrillat1 1Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy, BIRA-IASB, Brussels, 1180, Belgium
2Air Quality Research Division, Environment Canada, Dorval, Canada
Abstract. An ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF) assimilation method is applied to the tracer transport using the same stratospheric transport model as in the four-dimensional variational (4D-Var) assimilation system BASCOE (Belgian Assimilation System for Chemical ObsErvations). This EnKF version of BASCOE was built primarily to avoid the large costs associated with the maintenance of an adjoint model. The EnKF developed in BASCOE accounts for two adjustable parameters: a parameter α controlling the model error term and a parameter r controlling the observational error. The EnKF system is shown to be markedly sensitive to these two parameters, which are adjusted based on the monitoring of a χ2 test measuring the misfit between the control variable and the observations. The performance of the EnKF and 4D-Var versions was estimated through the assimilation of Aura-MLS (microwave limb sounder) ozone observations during an 8-month period which includes the formation of the 2008 Antarctic ozone hole. To ensure a proper comparison, despite the fundamental differences between the two assimilation methods, both systems use identical and carefully calibrated input error statistics. We provide the detailed procedure for these calibrations, and compare the two sets of analyses with a focus on the lower and middle stratosphere where the ozone lifetime is much larger than the observational update frequency. Based on the observation-minus-forecast statistics, we show that the analyses provided by the two systems are markedly similar, with biases less than 5% and standard deviation errors less than 10% in most of the stratosphere. Since the biases are markedly similar, they most probably have the same causes: these can be deficiencies in the model and in the observation data set, but not in the assimilation algorithm nor in the error calibration. The remarkably similar performance also shows that in the context of stratospheric transport, the choice of the assimilation method can be based on application-dependent factors, such as CPU cost or the ability to generate an ensemble of forecasts.

Citation: Skachko, S., Errera, Q., Ménard, R., Christophe, Y., and Chabrillat, S.: Comparison of the ensemble Kalman filter and 4D-Var assimilation methods using a stratospheric tracer transport model, Geosci. Model Dev., 7, 1451-1465,, 2014.
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