Characterizing ERA-Interim and ERA5 surface wind biases using ASCAT
This paper analyzes the differences between ERA-Interim and ERA5 surface winds fields relative to Advanced Scatterometer (ASCAT) ocean vector wind observations, after adjustment for the effects of atmospheric stability and density, using stress-equivalent winds (U10S) and air–sea relative motion using ocean current velocities. In terms of instantaneous root mean square (rms) wind speed agreement, ERA5 winds show a 20 % improvement relative to ERA-Interim and a performance similar to that of currently operational ECMWF forecasts. ERA5 also performs better than ERA-Interim in terms of mean and transient wind errors, wind divergence and wind stress curl biases. Yet, both ERA products show systematic errors in the partition of the wind kinetic energy into zonal and meridional, mean and transient components. ERA winds are characterized by excessive mean zonal winds (westerlies) with too-weak mean poleward flows in the midlatitudes and too-weak mean meridional winds (trades) in the tropics. ERA stress curl is too cyclonic in midlatitudes and high latitudes, with implications for Ekman upwelling estimates, and lacks detail in the representation of sea surface temperature (SST) gradient effects (along the equatorial cold tongues and Western Boundary Current (WBC) jets) and mesoscale convective airflows (along the Intertropical Convergence Zone and the warm flanks for the WBC jets). It is conjectured that large-scale mean wind biases in ERA are related to their lack of high-frequency (transient wind) variability, which should be promoting residual meridional circulations in the Ferrel and Hadley cells.