Abstract 129

Abstract ID: 129

Inferred Sea Level Prediction in the NASA GMAO Seasonal Forecasting System

Lead Author: Richard I. Cullather
Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, United States of America

Keywords: sea level, seasonal prediction, ocean circulation, inverse barometer effect, teleconnection

Abstract: Reliable predictions of sea level anomalies on seasonal timescales with lead times of 1 to 9 months may have relevance to stakeholders – for example, in the advance deployment of resources for coastal flood mitigation. Routine prediction and analysis may also highlight physical processes associated with sea level change and modeling capabilities on seasonal and other timescales. These forecasts may represent interannual changes in the seasonal slope of the ocean surface, teleconnection effects such as the El Niño/Southern Oscillation phenomenon, and variations in seasonal hydrology including precipitation and coastal runoff.

Coupled atmosphere/ocean models are routinely used in the seasonal prediction of temperature anomalies, precipitation anomalies, sea ice cover, and climate indices such as the Niño3.4 predictions under the North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME) protocol. Within the limits of their configuration, these complex Earth-system models have a potential for depicting regional changes in oceanic column properties, including the sea surface height. Seasonal prediction models generally have no representation of long-term mass contributions from melting land ice, or changes in vertical land motion; their output may be more specifically characterized as predictions of the ocean dynamic sea level.

In practice however, the sea surface height prognostic variable is substantially compromised by the forecast model response to initial conditions. Imbalances between the initial, observed hydrologic cycle and the forecast model state produce abrupt adjustments in the model sea surface height. As a result, most seasonal prediction systems employ a constraint on the globally-averaged sea surface height that is applied at each time step. This essentially renders the prognostic sea surface height variable as unserviceable.

Several approaches have previously been used to retrieve sea level information from seasonal forecasts beyond the use of the sea surface height variable. Here, we extend a method of relating other prognostic values, including ocean circulation and climate indices, to observed sea level variations. We use the merged altimetry record of the NASA MEaSUREs Gridded Sea Surface Height Anomalies data set and monthly revised local reference gauge observations from the National Oceanography Centre Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL) to evaluate derived prognostic variables from the NASA Global Modeling and Assimilation Office subseasonal-to-seasonal system version 2.1 (GMAO S2S v2.1). We focus on results for the midlatitudes with particular emphasis on US gauge locations. As shown in previous studies, prognostic ENSO-related indices in boreal winter are well correlated with gauge observations for the US west coast, but also for other locations in the southeastern US. Other forecast climate indices such as the North Atlantic Oscillation have relations to sea level that are limited both seasonally and spatially. As expected, surface atmospheric pressure (e.g., inverse barometer effect) is found to be particularly well correlated with observed sea level. We provide a characterization of forecast skill for seasonal sea level with this method.

Richard D. Ray (Geodesy and Geophysics Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
Yury V. Vikhliaev (Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
Andrea M. Molod (Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
Sophie M.J. Nowicki (Department of Geology, University at Buffalo)