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The geometry of model error

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This paper investigates the nature of model error in complex deterministic nonlinear systems such as weather forecasting models. Forecasting systems incorporate two components, a forecast model and a data assimilation method. The latter projects a collection of observations of reality into a model state. Key features of model error can be understood in terms of geometric properties of the data projection and a model attracting manifold. Model error can be resolved into two components: a projection error, which can be understood as the model’s attractor being in the wrong location given the data projection, and direction error, which can be understood as the trajectories of the model moving in the wrong direction compared to the projection of reality into model space. This investigation introduces some new tools and concepts, including the shadowing filter, causal and noncausal shadow analyses, and various geometric diagnostics. Various properties of forecast errors and model errors are described with reference to low-dimensional systems, like Lorenz’s equations; then, an operational weather forecasting system is shown to have the same predicted behavior. The concepts and tools introduced show promise for the diagnosis of model error and the improvement of ensemble forecasting systems.

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