Impact of a time-dependent background error covariance matrix on air quality analysis
Abstract. In this article we study the influence of different characteristics of our assimilation system on surface ozone analyses over Europe. Emphasis is placed on the evaluation of the background error covariance matrix (BECM). Data assimilation systems require a BECM in order to obtain an optimal representation of the physical state. A posteriori diagnostics are an efficient way to check the consistency of the used BECM. In this study we derived a diagnostic to estimate the BECM. On the other hand, an increasingly used approach to obtain such a covariance matrix is to estimate it from an ensemble of perturbed assimilation experiments. We applied this method, combined with variational assimilation, while analysing the surface ozone distribution over Europe. We first show that the resulting covariance matrix is strongly time (hourly and seasonally) and space dependent. We then built several configurations of the background error covariance matrix with none, one or two of its components derived from the ensemble estimation. We used each of these configurations to produce surface ozone analyses. All the analyses are compared between themselves and compared to assimilated data or data from independent validation stations. The configurations are very well correlated with the validation stations, but with varying regional and seasonal characteristics. The largest correlation is obtained with the experiments using time- and space-dependent correlation of the background errors. Results show that our assimilation process is efficient in bringing the model assimilations closer to the observations than the direct simulation, but we cannot conclude which BECM configuration is the best. The impact of the background error covariances configuration on four-days forecasts is also studied. Although mostly positive, the impact depends on the season and lasts longer during the winter season.