Predictability of Precipitation from Continental Radar Images. Part IV: Limits to Prediction

Urs Germann MeteoSwiss, Locarno-Monti, Switzerland

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Isztar Zawadzki Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, McGill University, Montréal, and J. S. Marshall Weather Radar Observatory, Sainte Anne de Bellevue, Québec, Canada

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Barry Turner Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, McGill University, Montréal, and J. S. Marshall Weather Radar Observatory, Sainte Anne de Bellevue, Québec, Canada

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Abstract

Predictability of precipitation is examined from storm to synoptic scales through an experimental approach using continent-scale radar composite images. The lifetime of radar reflectivity patterns in Eulerian and Lagrangian coordinates is taken as a measure of predictability. The results are stratified according to scale, location, and time in order to determine how predictability depends on these parameters. Three companion papers give a detailed description of the methodology, and present results are obtained for 143 hours of North American warm season rainfall with emphasis on lifetime, scale dependence, optimum smoothing of forecast fields, and predictability in terms of probabilistic rainfall rates.

This paper discusses the sources of forecast uncertainty and extends the analysis to a total of 1424 hours of rainfall. In a Lagrangian persistence framework the predictability problem can be separated into a component associated with growth of precipitation and a component associated with changes in the storm motion field. The role of changes in the motion field turned out to be small but not negligible. A stratification of lifetime according to location reveals the regions with high predictability and significant nonstationary storm motion.

This work is of high practical significance for three reasons: First, Lagrangian persistence of radar patterns was proved to have skill for probabilistic precipitation nowcasting. The discussion of the sources of uncertainty provides a guideline for further improvements. Second, a scale- and location-dependent benchmark is obtained against which the progress of other precipitation forecasting techniques can be evaluated. And, third, the experimental approach to predictability presented in this paper is a valuable contribution to the fundamental question of predictability of precipitation.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Urs Germann, MeteoSwiss, CH-6605 Locarno-Monti, Switzerland. Email: urs.germann@meteoswiss.ch

Abstract

Predictability of precipitation is examined from storm to synoptic scales through an experimental approach using continent-scale radar composite images. The lifetime of radar reflectivity patterns in Eulerian and Lagrangian coordinates is taken as a measure of predictability. The results are stratified according to scale, location, and time in order to determine how predictability depends on these parameters. Three companion papers give a detailed description of the methodology, and present results are obtained for 143 hours of North American warm season rainfall with emphasis on lifetime, scale dependence, optimum smoothing of forecast fields, and predictability in terms of probabilistic rainfall rates.

This paper discusses the sources of forecast uncertainty and extends the analysis to a total of 1424 hours of rainfall. In a Lagrangian persistence framework the predictability problem can be separated into a component associated with growth of precipitation and a component associated with changes in the storm motion field. The role of changes in the motion field turned out to be small but not negligible. A stratification of lifetime according to location reveals the regions with high predictability and significant nonstationary storm motion.

This work is of high practical significance for three reasons: First, Lagrangian persistence of radar patterns was proved to have skill for probabilistic precipitation nowcasting. The discussion of the sources of uncertainty provides a guideline for further improvements. Second, a scale- and location-dependent benchmark is obtained against which the progress of other precipitation forecasting techniques can be evaluated. And, third, the experimental approach to predictability presented in this paper is a valuable contribution to the fundamental question of predictability of precipitation.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Urs Germann, MeteoSwiss, CH-6605 Locarno-Monti, Switzerland. Email: urs.germann@meteoswiss.ch

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