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  1. Abstract The ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF) is a popular technique for data assimilation in high-dimensional nonlinear state-space models. The EnKF represents distributions of interest by an ensemble, which is a form of dimension reduction that enables straightforward forecasting even for complicated and expensive evolution operators. However, the EnKF update step involves estimation of the forecast covariance matrix based on the (often small) ensemble, which requires regularization. Many existing regularization techniques rely on spatial localization, which may ignore long-range dependence. Instead, our proposed approach assumes a sparse Cholesky factor of the inverse covariance matrix, and the nonzero Cholesky entries are furthermore »regularized. The resulting method is highly flexible and computationally scalable. In our numerical experiments, our approach was more accurate and less sensitive to misspecification of tuning parameters than tapering-based localization.« less