In Part I of this study recent versions of the ECWMF Integrated Forecasting System (IFS) are used together with historical observational data to carry out reanalyses and deterministic reforecasts of three major north-west European wind storms of the twentieth century. The storms considered are the Dutch storm of 1 February 1953, the Hamburg storm of 17 February 1962, and the British October storm of 1987 (Great October Storm). Common to all these storms is their severity, which caused large loss of life and widespread damage.
Reanalysis of the storms is based on a 3D-Var and 4D-Var assimilation scheme at a horizontal resolution of T$_L$159 ($\approx$125 km) and T$_L$511 ($\approx$50 km), respectively. Similarly, two different horizontal resolutions (T$_L$159 and T$_L$511) are used to investigate the deterministic predictability of these storms. The lower-resolution system is exactly that used in the ERA-40 reanalysis project. The high-resolution system is a more recent version of the ECMWF IFS.
It is shown that the basic characteristics of the Dutch and Hamburg storms that gave rise to the storm surge are well predicted by the single deterministic forecasts up to about 48 and 84 hours, respectively, in advance.
Our capability to predict the Great October Storm is more difficult to assess. On the one hand, even recent versions of the ECMWF IFS underestimate the severity of the storm in the very short-range (12–24-hour forecasts started at 12 UTC 15 October 1987). On the other hand, the high-resolution version of the ECMWF IFS provides excellent deterministic forecasts of the track and intensity of the storm up to 96 hours in advance. However, there are errors in the timing of the storm (12 hours for the 96 hour forecast).
From the results presented in this study it is concluded – bearing in mind the limited number of cases considered – that with the current ECMWF forecasting system reliable deterministic predictions of some European wind storms are possible several days in advance.