Singular vectors, predictability and ensemble forecasting for weather and climate


The local instabilities of a nonlinear dynamical system can be characterized by the leading singular vectors of its linearized operator. The leading singular vectors are perturbations with the greatest linear growth and are therefore key in assessing the system’s predictability. In this paper, the analysis of singular vectors for the predictability of weather and climate and ensemble forecasting is discussed. An overview of the role of singular vectors in informing about the error growth rate in numerical models of the atmosphere is given. This is followed by their use in the initialization of ensemble weather forecasts. Singular vectors for the ocean and coupled ocean–atmosphere system in order to understand the predictability of climate phenomena such as ENSO and meridional overturning circulation are reviewed and their potential use to initialize seasonal and decadal forecasts is considered. As stochastic parameterizations are being implemented, some speculations are made about the future of singular vectors for the predictability of weather and climate for theoretical applications and at the operational level.

Journal of Physics A: Math. Theor., 46 (2013) 254018
Laure Zanna
Laure Zanna
Professor of Mathematics & Atmosphere/Ocean Science [She/Her]

My research interests include Climate Dynamics, Physical Oceanography and Data Science.