Numerical models of the atmosphere are based on the best theory available. Understandably, the theoretical assessment of errors induced by the use of such models is confounding. Without clear theoretical guidance, the experimental separation of the model-induced part of the total forecast error is also challenging. In this study, the forecast error and ensemble perturbation variances were decomposed. Smaller- and larger-scale components, separated as a function of the lead time, were independent. They were associated with features with completely vs. only partially lost skill, respectively. For their phenomenological description, the larger-scale variance was further decomposed orthogonally into positional and structural components. An analysis of the various components revealed that chaotically amplifying initial perturbation and error predominantly led to positional differences in forecasts, while structural differences were interpreted as an indicator of the model-induced error. Model-induced errors were found to be relatively small. These results confirmed earlier assumptions and limited empirical evidence that numerical models of the atmosphere may be near perfect on the scales they well resolve.