Numerical Prediction of an Antarctic Severe Wind Event with the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model

Jordan G. Powers Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Division, Earth and Sun Systems Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

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Abstract

This study initiates the application of the maturing Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model to the polar regions in the context of the real-time Antarctic Mesoscale Prediction System (AMPS). The behavior of the Advanced Research WRF (ARW) in a high-latitude setting and its ability to capture a significant Antarctic weather event are investigated. Also, in a suite of sensitivity tests, the impacts of the assimilation of Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) atmospheric motion vectors on ARW Antarctic forecasts are explored. The simulation results are analyzed and the statistical significance of error differences is assessed. It is found that with the proper consideration of MODIS data the ARW can accurately simulate a major Antarctic event, the May 2004 McMurdo windstorm. The ARW simulations illuminate an episode of high-momentum flow responding to the complex orography of the vital Ross Island region. While the model captures the synoptic setting and basic trajectory of the cyclone driving the event, there are differences on the mesoscale in the evolution of the low pressure system that significantly affect the forecast results. In general, both the ARW and AMPS’s fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesoscale Model (MM5) tend to underforecast the wind magnitudes, reflecting their stalling and filling of the system near Ross Island. It is seen, however, that both targeted data assimilation and grid resolution enhancement can yield improvement in the forecast of the key parameter of wind speed. It is found that the assimilation of MODIS observations can significantly improve the forecast for a high-impact Antarctic weather event. However, the application to the retrievals of a filter accounting for instrument channel, observation height, and surface type is necessary. The results indicate benefits to initial conditions and high-resolution, polar, mesoscale forecasts from the careful assimilation of nontraditional satellite observations over Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Jordan G. Powers, Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Division, Earth and Sun Systems Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307. Email: powers@ucar.edu

Abstract

This study initiates the application of the maturing Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model to the polar regions in the context of the real-time Antarctic Mesoscale Prediction System (AMPS). The behavior of the Advanced Research WRF (ARW) in a high-latitude setting and its ability to capture a significant Antarctic weather event are investigated. Also, in a suite of sensitivity tests, the impacts of the assimilation of Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) atmospheric motion vectors on ARW Antarctic forecasts are explored. The simulation results are analyzed and the statistical significance of error differences is assessed. It is found that with the proper consideration of MODIS data the ARW can accurately simulate a major Antarctic event, the May 2004 McMurdo windstorm. The ARW simulations illuminate an episode of high-momentum flow responding to the complex orography of the vital Ross Island region. While the model captures the synoptic setting and basic trajectory of the cyclone driving the event, there are differences on the mesoscale in the evolution of the low pressure system that significantly affect the forecast results. In general, both the ARW and AMPS’s fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesoscale Model (MM5) tend to underforecast the wind magnitudes, reflecting their stalling and filling of the system near Ross Island. It is seen, however, that both targeted data assimilation and grid resolution enhancement can yield improvement in the forecast of the key parameter of wind speed. It is found that the assimilation of MODIS observations can significantly improve the forecast for a high-impact Antarctic weather event. However, the application to the retrievals of a filter accounting for instrument channel, observation height, and surface type is necessary. The results indicate benefits to initial conditions and high-resolution, polar, mesoscale forecasts from the careful assimilation of nontraditional satellite observations over Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Jordan G. Powers, Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Division, Earth and Sun Systems Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307. Email: powers@ucar.edu

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