On the predictability of outliers in ensemble forecasts
In numerical weather prediction, ensembles are used to retrieve probabilistic forecasts of future weather conditions. We consider events where the verification is smaller than the smallest, or larger than the largest ensemble member of a scalar ensemble forecast. These events are called outliers. In a statistically consistent K-member ensemble, outliers should occur with a base rate of 2/( K+1). In operational ensembles this base rate tends to be higher. We study the predictability of outlier events in terms of the Brier Skill Score and find that forecast probabilities can be calculated which are more skillful than the unconditional base rate. This is shown analytically for statistically consistent ensembles. Using logistic regression, forecast probabilities for outlier events in an operational ensemble are calculated. These probabilities exhibit positive skill which is quantitatively similar to the analytical results. Possible causes of these results as well as their consequences for ensemble interpretation are discussed.