A local ensemble Kalman filter for atmospheric data assimilation

Edward Ott, Brian R. Hunt, Istvan Szunyogh, Aleksey V. Zimin, Eric Kostelich, Matteo Corazza, Eugenia Kalnay, D. J. Patil, James A. Yorke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

605 Scopus citations


In this paper, we introduce a new, local formulation of the ensemble Kalman filter approach for atmospheric data assimilation. Our scheme is based on the hypothesis that, when the Earth's surface is divided up into local regions of moderate size, vectors of the forecast uncertainties in such regions tend to lie in a subspace of much lower dimension than that of the full atmospheric state vector of such a region. Ensemble Kalman filters, in general, take the analysis resulting from the data assimilation to lie in the same subspace as the expected forecast error. Under our hypothesis the dimension of the subspace corresponding to local regions is low. This is used in our scheme to allow operations only on relatively low-dimensional matrices. The data assimilation analysis is performed locally in a manner allowing massively parallel computation to be exploited. The local analyses are then used to construct global states for advancement to the next forecast time. One advantage, which may take on more importance as ever-increasing amounts of remotely-sensed satellite data become available, is the favorable scaling of the computational cost of our method with increasing data size, as compared to other methods that assimilate data sequentially. The method, its potential advantages, properties, and implementation requirements are illustrated by numerical experiments on the Lorenz-96 model. It is found that accurate analysis can be achieved at a cost which is very modest compared to that of a full global ensemble Kalman filter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-428
Number of pages14
JournalTellus, Series A: Dynamic Meteorology and Oceanography
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Atmospheric Science


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