On the selection of localization radius in ensemble filtering for multiscale quasigeostrophic dynamics

Yue Ying, Fuqing Zhang, Jeffrey L. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Covariance localization remedies sampling errors due to limited ensemble size in ensemble data assimilation. Previous studies suggest that the optimal localization radius depends on ensemble size, observation density and accuracy, as well as the correlation length scale determined by model dynamics. A comprehensive localization theory for multiscale dynamical systems with varying observation density remains an active area of research. Using a two-layer quasigeostrophic (QG) model, this study systematically evaluates the sensitivity of the best Gaspari-Cohn localization radius to changes in model resolution, ensemble size, and observing networks. Numerical experiment results show that the best localization radius is smaller for smaller-scale components of a QG flow, indicating its scale dependency. The best localization radius is rather insensitive to changes in model resolution, as long as the key dynamical processes are reasonably well represented by the low-resolution model with inflation methods that account for representation errors. As ensemble size decreases, the best localization radius shifts to smaller values. However, for nonlocal correlations between an observation and state variables that peak at a certain distance, decreasing localization radii further within this distance does not reduce analysis errors. Increasing the density of an observing network has two effects that both reduce the best localization radius. First, the reduced observation error spectral variance further constrains prior ensembles at large scales. Less large-scale contribution results in a shorter overall correlation length, which favors a smaller localization radius. Second, a denser network provides more independent pieces of information, thus a smaller localization radius still allows the same number of observations to constrain each state variable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)543-560
Number of pages18
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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