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Evaluating CFSR Air-Sea Heat, Freshwater, and Momentum Fluxes in the context of the Global Energy and Freshwater Budgets

This proposed research aims at providing a comprehensive assessment of the partially coupled Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR) by NOAA NCEP in representing air-sea heat, freshwater, and momentum fluxes in the context of the global energy and water budgets. The proposed research addresses the MAPP call on improving our ability to “better quantify uncertainties in reanalysis data including the impacts of data and model error”, and addresses the climate objectives of NOAA’s Next Generation Strategic Plan (NGSP) with particular focus on providing quantitative assessments of current state of the climate system.

The CFSR is the first and only reanalysis that incorporates a coupled atmosphere-oceanland climate system with an interactive sea-ice component, and the one that has the finest spatial resolution (~0.5°) ever produced by any reanalysis. Evidence has clearly pointed to the advantages and strengths of the finer-resolution coupled CFSR reanalysis in characterizing airsea fluxes at regional and global scales, but biases/errors in the CFSR flux components at various temporal scales have also been reported. The biases/errors appear to have significant impact on the estimates of the energy and water budgets over the global oceans. Currently, the CFSR produces a global energy imbalance of 15 Wm-2, which is about 10 Wm-2 higher than the estimates from the earlier NCEP reanalyses. We recognize that balancing the global energy/water budgets has long been a challenging issue, with global energy budgets differing considerably, from 2 to 30 Wm-2, when computed using reanalyzed, ship-, and satellite-based flux products. However, the global energy/water budgets are central to the understanding of climate variability and climate changes produced by the reanalyses. A good knowledge of the impact of biases/errors in surface flux components on the global budget estimates will be highly beneficial to not only the users of CFSR products but also the developers for the next-generation Earth System reanalysis. Therefore, this proposed assessment study will analyze the biases/errors in the CFSR surface fluxes in the context of the global energy/water budget and will also compare the CFSR with the earlier and the latest reanalyses as value-added evaluation.

The proposed approaches include: (i) in situ validation, in which a database consisting of more than 130 flux buoys is used as ground truth for identifying and quantifying biases/errors in flux products; (ii) spectral analysis, in which ship- and satellite-based global flux analyses are used as reference to evaluate and characterize the regional and global spectral structures of flux products, and (iii) dynamical diagnosis, in which dynamic constraints (such as energy and freshwater budgets in an enclosed volume) are used to test the physical consistency of flux products with ocean state variables (temperature and salinity).

The primary objectives of the proposed research are to (i) identify the strength and weakness of the CFSR surface flux components by comparison with in situ flux measurement, satellite-based analyses and other reanalyses products and understand the sources of biases, (ii) examine the effect of spatial resolution in improving the accuracy and spatial structure of CFSR fluxes on regional and global scales, (iii) investigate the use of physical constraints together with ocean state variables to diagnose and understand the uncertainties in CFSR air-sea fluxes.

The significance of the proposed research is in the potential to (i) establish a baseline that can be used to help determine the scope and extent of the CFSR surface fluxes to be applied; (ii) improve our understanding of the state-of-estimation of air-sea fluxes in latest reanalyses; (iii) obtain new insights on the cause of the discrepancies in global energy/freshwater budget estimates based on air-sea fluxes; and (iv) obtain practical recommendations for future improvement of air-sea flux estimation in reanalyses.

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