Royal Society Publishing

Atmospheric Angular Momentum Forecasts as Novel Tests of Global Numerical Weather Prediction Models

M. J. Bell, R. Hide, G. Sakellarides


The global circulation of the terrestrial atmosphere exhibits fluctuations of considerable amplitude in all three components of its total angular momentum on interannual, seasonal and shorter timescales. The fluctuations must be intimately linked with nonlinear barotropic and baroclinic energetic conversion processes throughout the whole atmosphere and it is advocated that studies of routinely produced determinations of atmospheric angular momentum (AAM) changes be incorporated into systematic diagnostic investigations of large-scale atmospheric flows. AAM fluctuations are generated by dynamical interactions between the atmosphere and the underlying planet. These excite tiny but measurable compensating fluctuations in the rotation vector of the massive solid Earth, thereby ensuring conservation of the angular momentum of the whole system. Forecasts and analyses of changes in AAM from the output of a global numerical weather prediction (GNWP) model constitute a stringent test of the model. Successful forecasts of the axial component of AAM, and hence of irregular non-tidal components of short-term changes in the Earth's rotation, would find practical applications in various areas of astronomy and geodesy, such as spacecraft navigation. Reported in this paper are the main findings of intercomparisons of analyses and forecasts of changes in all three components of AAM obtained from the operational GNWP models at the United Kingdom Meteorological Office (UKMO) and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), over the period covering the two years 1987 and 1988. Included in the results obtained is the finding that useful forecasts of changes in the axial component of AAM can be made out to 5 days and even slightly longer.

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