Spurious Grid-Scale Precipitation in the North American Regional Reanalysis

Gregory L. West Department of Meteorology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah

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W. James Steenburgh Department of Meteorology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah

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William Y. Y. Cheng Department of Meteorology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah

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Abstract

Spurious grid-scale precipitation (SGSP) occurs in many mesoscale numerical weather prediction models when the simulated atmosphere becomes convectively unstable and the convective parameterization fails to relieve the instability. Case studies presented in this paper illustrate that SGSP events are also found in the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) and are accompanied by excessive maxima in grid-scale precipitation, vertical velocity, moisture variables (e.g., relative humidity and precipitable water), mid- and upper-level equivalent potential temperature, and mid- and upper-level absolute vorticity. SGSP events in environments favorable for high-based convection can also feature low-level cold pools and sea level pressure maxima. Prior to 2003, retrospectively generated NARR analyses feature an average of approximately 370 SGSP events annually. Beginning in 2003, however, NARR analyses are generated in near–real time by the Regional Climate Data Assimilation System (R-CDAS), which is identical to the retrospective NARR analysis system except for the input precipitation and ice cover datasets. Analyses produced by the R-CDAS feature a substantially larger number of SGSP events with more than 4000 occurring in the original 2003 analyses. An oceanic precipitation data processing error, which resulted in a reprocessing of NARR analyses from 2003 to 2005, only partially explains this increase since the reprocessed analyses still produce approximately 2000 SGSP events annually. These results suggest that many NARR SGSP events are not produced by shortcomings in the underlying Eta Model, but by the specification of anomalous latent heating when there is a strong mismatch between modeled and assimilated precipitation. NARR users should ensure that they are using the reprocessed NARR analyses from 2003 to 2005 and consider the possible influence of SGSP on their findings, particularly after the transition to the R-CDAS.

Corresponding author address: Dr. W. James Steenburgh, Department of Meteorology, University of Utah, 135 South 1460 East Room 819, Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0110. Email: jimsteen@met.utah.edu

Abstract

Spurious grid-scale precipitation (SGSP) occurs in many mesoscale numerical weather prediction models when the simulated atmosphere becomes convectively unstable and the convective parameterization fails to relieve the instability. Case studies presented in this paper illustrate that SGSP events are also found in the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) and are accompanied by excessive maxima in grid-scale precipitation, vertical velocity, moisture variables (e.g., relative humidity and precipitable water), mid- and upper-level equivalent potential temperature, and mid- and upper-level absolute vorticity. SGSP events in environments favorable for high-based convection can also feature low-level cold pools and sea level pressure maxima. Prior to 2003, retrospectively generated NARR analyses feature an average of approximately 370 SGSP events annually. Beginning in 2003, however, NARR analyses are generated in near–real time by the Regional Climate Data Assimilation System (R-CDAS), which is identical to the retrospective NARR analysis system except for the input precipitation and ice cover datasets. Analyses produced by the R-CDAS feature a substantially larger number of SGSP events with more than 4000 occurring in the original 2003 analyses. An oceanic precipitation data processing error, which resulted in a reprocessing of NARR analyses from 2003 to 2005, only partially explains this increase since the reprocessed analyses still produce approximately 2000 SGSP events annually. These results suggest that many NARR SGSP events are not produced by shortcomings in the underlying Eta Model, but by the specification of anomalous latent heating when there is a strong mismatch between modeled and assimilated precipitation. NARR users should ensure that they are using the reprocessed NARR analyses from 2003 to 2005 and consider the possible influence of SGSP on their findings, particularly after the transition to the R-CDAS.

Corresponding author address: Dr. W. James Steenburgh, Department of Meteorology, University of Utah, 135 South 1460 East Room 819, Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0110. Email: jimsteen@met.utah.edu

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