Artificial surface pressure trends in the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis over the Southern Ocean and Antarctica

An examination of 50 years of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP)–National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) reanalysis from 1949 to 1998 reveals that significant spurious trends occur in the surface pressure field. Long-term surface pressure reductions are apparent south of 45°S. The largest trend in surface pressure is near 65°S where an approximately steady long-term pressure reduction of about 0.20 hPa yr−1 (10 hPa in 50 yr) is located. The negative pressure trend represents a gradual reduction in a positive bias for the reanalysis. Observations at Antarctic stations do not support this long-term trend, although short-term interannual variations are reasonably well captured after about 1970. The negative pressure tendency near 65°S continues well into the 1990s although a reasonable number of stations between 65° and 70°S began taking observations along the coast of east Antarctica during the 1950s and 1960s. Few Antarctic observations, however, are used by the reanalysis until about 1968, and the quality of the pressure field for the reanalysis appears poor in high southern latitudes prior to then. The trend in high southern latitudes appears to be a component of global temporal variations in the reanalysis, some of which are supported by observations but others are not. In the Southern Hemisphere, the sea level pressure difference between 40° and 60°S, an indicator of westerly wind intensity, increases approximately from 20 hPa in the early 1950s to 25 hPa in the early 1970s and 28 hPa in recent years. The relatively high density of observing stations along the Antarctic Peninsula, however, results in an approximately steady local surface pressure after the pressure fell about 4 hPa during the late 1950s. Based upon these findings, researchers should account for jumps and long-term trends when making use of the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis.


Publication status:
Authors: Hines, Keith M., Bromwich, David H., Marshall, Gareth J. ORCIDORCID record for Gareth J. Marshall

On this site: Gareth Marshall
1 January, 2000
Journal of Climate / 13
Link to published article:<3940:ASPTIT>2.0.CO;2