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  1. Abstract Particle filters avoid parametric estimates for Bayesian posterior densities, which alleviates Gaussian assumptions in nonlinear regimes. These methods, however, are more sensitive to sampling errors than Gaussian-based techniques such as ensemble Kalman filters. A recent study by the authors introduced an iterative strategy for particle filters that match posterior moments—where iterations improve the filter’s ability to draw samples from non-Gaussian posterior densities. The iterations follow from a factorization of particle weights, providing a natural framework for combining particle filters with alternative filters to mitigate the impact of sampling errors. The current study introduces a novel approach to forming an adaptive hybrid data assimilation methodology, exploiting the theoretical strengths of nonparametric and parametric filters. At each data assimilation cycle, the iterative particle filter performs a sequence of updates while the prior sample distribution is non-Gaussian, then an ensemble Kalman filter provides the final adjustment when Gaussian distributions for marginal quantities are detected. The method employs the Shapiro–Wilk test to determine when to make the transition between filter algorithms, which has outstanding power for detecting departures from normality. Experiments using low-dimensional models demonstrate that the approach has a significant value, especially for nonhomogeneous observation networks and unknown model process errors. Moreover, hybrid factors are extended to consider marginals of more than one collocated variables using a test for multivariate normality. Findings from this study motivate the use of the proposed method for geophysical problems characterized by diverse observation networks and various dynamic instabilities, such as numerical weather prediction models. Significance Statement Data assimilation statistically processes observation errors and model forecast errors to provide optimal initial conditions for the forecast, playing a critical role in numerical weather forecasting. The ensemble Kalman filter, which has been widely adopted and developed in many operational centers, assumes Gaussianity of the prior distribution and solves a linear system of equations, leading to bias in strong nonlinear regimes. On the other hand, particle filters avoid many of those assumptions but are sensitive to sampling errors and are computationally expensive. We propose an adaptive hybrid strategy that combines their advantages and minimizes the disadvantages of the two methods. The hybrid particle filter–ensemble Kalman filter is achieved with the Shapiro–Wilk test to detect the Gaussianity of the ensemble members and determine the timing of the transition between these filter updates. Demonstrations in this study show that the proposed method is advantageous when observations are heterogeneous and when the model has an unknown bias. Furthermore, by extending the statistical hypothesis test to the test for multivariate normality, we consider marginals of more than one collocated variable. These results encourage further testing for real geophysical problems characterized by various dynamic instabilities, such as real numerical weather prediction models. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2024
  2. Abstract

    For data assimilation to provide faithful state estimates for dynamical models, specifications of observation uncertainty need to be as accurate as possible. Innovation-based methods based on Desroziers diagnostics, are commonly used to estimate observation uncertainty, but such methods can depend greatly on the prescribed background uncertainty. For ensemble data assimilation, this uncertainty comes from statistics calculated from ensemble forecasts, which require inflation and localization to address under sampling. In this work, we use an ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF) with a low-dimensional Lorenz model to investigate the interplay between the Desroziers method and inflation. Two inflation techniques are used for this purpose: 1) a rigorously tuned fixed multiplicative scheme and 2) an adaptive state-space scheme. We document how inaccuracies in observation uncertainty affect errors in EnKF posteriors and study the combined impacts of misspecified initial observation uncertainty, sampling error, and model error on Desroziers estimates. We find that whether observation uncertainty is over- or underestimated greatly affects the stability of data assimilation and the accuracy of Desroziers estimates and that preference should be given to initial overestimates. Inline estimates of Desroziers tend to remove the dependence between ensemble spread–skill and the initially prescribed observation error. In addition, we find that the inclusion of model error introduces spurious correlations in observation uncertainty estimates. Further, we note that the adaptive inflation scheme is less robust than fixed inflation at mitigating multiple sources of error. Last, sampling error strongly exacerbates existing sources of error and greatly degrades EnKF estimates, which translates into biased Desroziers estimates of observation error covariance.

    Significance Statement

    To generate accurate predictions of various components of the Earth system, numerical models require an accurate specification of state variables at our current time. This step adopts a probabilistic consideration of our current state estimate versus information provided from environmental measurements of the true state. Various strategies exist for estimating uncertainty in observations within this framework, but are sensitive to a host of assumptions, which are investigated in this study.

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  3. Abstract

    Estimating and predicting the state of the atmosphere is a probabilistic problem for which an ensemble modeling approach often is taken to represent uncertainty in the system. Common methods for examining uncertainty and assessing performance for ensembles emphasize pointwise statistics or marginal distributions. However, these methods lose specific information about individual ensemble members. This paper explores contour band depth (cBD), a method of analyzing uncertainty in terms of contours of scalar fields. cBD is fully nonparametric and induces an ordering on ensemble members that leads to box-and-whisker-plot-type visualizations of uncertainty for two-dimensional data. By applying cBD to synthetic ensembles, we demonstrate that it provides enhanced information about the spatial structure of ensemble uncertainty. We also find that the usefulness of the cBD analysis depends on the presence of multiple modes and multiple scales in the ensemble of contours. Finally, we apply cBD to compare various convection-permitting forecasts from different ensemble prediction systems and find that the value it provides in real-world applications compared to standard analysis methods exhibits clear limitations. In some cases, contour boxplots can provide deeper insight into differences in spatial characteristics between the different ensemble forecasts. Nevertheless, identification of outliers using cBD is not always intuitive, and the method can be especially challenging to implement for flow that exhibits multiple spatial scales (e.g., discrete convective cells embedded within a mesoscale weather system).

    Significance Statement

    Predictions of Earth’s atmosphere inherently come with some degree of uncertainty owing to incomplete observations and the chaotic nature of the system. Understanding that uncertainty is critical when drawing scientific conclusions or making policy decisions from model predictions. In this study, we explore a method for describing model uncertainty when the quantities of interest are well represented by contours. The method yields a quantitative visualization of uncertainty in both the location and the shape of contours to an extent that is not possible with standard uncertainty quantification methods and may eventually prove useful for the development of more robust techniques for evaluating and validating numerical weather models.

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  4. Abstract Weather prediction models currently operate within a probabilistic framework for generating forecasts conditioned on recent measurements of Earth’s atmosphere. This framework can be conceptualized as one that approximates parts of a Bayesian posterior density estimated under assumptions of Gaussian errors. Gaussian error approximations are appropriate for synoptic-scale atmospheric flow, which experiences quasi-linear error evolution over time scales depicted by measurements, but are often hypothesized to be inappropriate for highly nonlinear, sparsely-observed mesoscale processes. The current study adopts an experimental regional modeling system to examine the impact of Gaussian prior error approximations, which are adopted by ensemble Kalman filters (EnKFs) to generate probabilistic predictions. The analysis is aided by results obtained using recently-introduced particle filter (PF) methodology that relies on an implicit non-parametric representation of prior probability densities—but with added computational expense. The investigation focuses on EnKF and PF comparisons over month-long experiments performed using an extensive domain, which features the development and passage of numerous extratropical and tropical cyclones. The experiments reveal spurious small-scale corrections in EnKF members, which come about from inappropriate Gaussian approximations for priors dominated by alignment uncertainty in mesoscale weather systems. Similar behavior is found in PF members, owing to the use of a localization operator, but to a much lesser extent. This result is reproduced and studied using a low-dimensional model, which permits the use of large sample estimates of the Bayesian posterior distribution. Findings from this study motivate the use of data assimilation techniques that provide a more appropriate specification of multivariate non-Gaussian prior densities or a multi-scale treatment of alignment errors during data assimilation. 
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  5. Abstract

    Iterative ensemble filters and smoothers are now commonly used for geophysical models. Some of these methods rely on a factorization of the observation likelihood function to sample from a posterior density through a set of “tempered” transitions to ensemble members. For Gaussian‐based data assimilation methods, tangent linear versions of nonlinear operators can be relinearized between iterations, thus leading to a solution that is less biased than a single‐step approach. This study adopts similar iterative strategies for a localized particle filter (PF) that relies on the estimation of moments to adjust unobserved variables based on importance weights. This approach builds off a “regularization” of the local PF, which forces weights to be more uniform through heuristic means. The regularization then leads to an adaptive tempering, which can also be combined with filter updates from parametric methods, such as ensemble Kalman filters. The role of iterations is analyzed by deriving the localized posterior probability density assumed by current local PF formulations and then examining how single‐step and tempered PFs sample from this density. From experiments performed with a low‐dimensional nonlinear system, the iterative and hybrid strategies show the largest benefits in observation‐sparse regimes, where only a few particles contain high likelihoods and prior errors are non‐Gaussian. This regime mimics specific applications in numerical weather prediction, where small ensemble sizes, unresolved model error, and highly nonlinear dynamics lead to prior uncertainty that is larger than measurement uncertainty.

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