The impact of a low bias in snow water equivalent initialization on CFS seasonal forecasts

Patrick D. Broxton, Xubin Zeng, Nicholas Dawson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Across much of the Northern Hemisphere, Climate Forecast System forecasts made earlier in the winter (e.g., on 1 January) are found to have more snow water equivalent (SWE) in April-June than forecasts made later (e.g., on 1 April); furthermore, later forecasts tend to predict earlier snowmelt than earlier forecasts. As a result, other forecasted model quantities (e.g., soil moisture in April-June) show systematic differences dependent on the forecast lead time. Notably, earlier forecasts predict much colder near-surface air temperatures in April-June than later forecasts. Although the later forecasts of temperature are more accurate, earlier forecasts of SWE are more realistic, suggesting that the improvement in temperature forecasts occurs for the wrong reasons. Thus, this study highlights the need to improve atmospheric processes in the model (e.g., radiative transfer, turbulence) that would cause cold biases when a more realistic amount of snow is on the ground. Furthermore, SWE differences in earlier versus later forecasts are found to much more strongly affect April-June temperature forecasts than the sea surface temperature differences over different regions, suggesting the major role of snowpack in seasonal prediction during the spring-summer transition over snowy regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8657-8671
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017


  • Model initialization
  • Northern Hemisphere
  • Seasonal forecasting
  • Snow cover

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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