Better Baltic Sea wave forecasts: improving resolution or introducing ensembles?

Schmith, Torben; Nielsen, Jacob Woge; Rasmussen, Till Andreas Soya; Feddersen, Henrik

The performance of short-range operational forecasts of significant wave height (SWH) in the Baltic Sea is evaluated. Forecasts produced by a base configuration are intercompared with forecasts from two improved configurations: one with improved horizontal and spectral resolution and one with ensembles representing uncertainties in the physics of the forcing wind field and the initial conditions of this field. Both of the improved forecast classes represent an almost equal increase in computational costs. Therefore, the intercomparison addresses the question of whether more computer resources would be more favorably spent on enhancing the spatial and spectral resolution or, alternatively, on introducing ensembles. The intercomparison is based on comparisons with hourly observations of significant wave height from seven observation sites in the Baltic Sea during the 3-year period from 2015 to 2017. We conclude that for most wave measurement sites, the introduction of ensembles enhances the overall performance of the forecasts, whereas increasing the horizontal and spectral resolution does not. These sites represent offshore conditions, in that they are well exposed from all directions, are a large distance from the nearest coast and in deep water. Therefore, there is the a priori expectation that a detailed shoreline and bathymetry will not have any impact. Only at one site do we find that increasing the horizontal and spectral resolution significantly improves the forecasts. This site is situated in nearshore conditions, close to land and a nearby island, and is therefore shielded from many directions. Consequently, this study concludes that to improve wave forecasts in offshore areas, ensembles should be introduced. For near shore areas, in comparison, the study suggests that additional computational resources should be used to increase the resolution.

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Schmith, Torben / Nielsen, Jacob Woge / Rasmussen, Till Andreas Soya / et al: Better Baltic Sea wave forecasts: improving resolution or introducing ensembles?. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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