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Diagnosing Forecast Errors in Tropical Cyclone Motion

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  • 1 National Center for Atmospheric Research,* Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

This paper reports on the development of a diagnostic approach that can be used to examine the sources of numerical model forecast error that contribute to degraded tropical cyclone (TC) motion forecasts. Tropical cyclone motion forecasts depend upon skillful prediction of the environment wind field, and by extension, the synoptic-scale weather systems nearby the TC. While previous research suggests that the deep-layer mean (DLM) steering flow typically approximates the actual TC motion, it is shown that the motion of even mature TCs can depart from the DLM steering flow. An optimal environmental steering flow is defined, which varies the vertical extent of the steering layer and the radius over which TC vorticity and divergence are removed.

Errors in predicted TC motion are quantified using a diagnostic equation that accounts for not only differences in the synoptic-scale flow, but also differences in the depth and radius used to define the steering flow. Differences in the latter two parameters are interpreted in terms of errors in predicted TC structure or errors in proximate mesoscale flow features. Results from an analysis of 24-h forecasts from the Advanced Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting Model during the 2008–10 North Atlantic TC seasons show that forecast motion errors are dominated by errors in the environment wind field. Contributions from other terms are occasionally large and are interpreted from a vorticity perspective. The utility of this new diagnostic equation is that it can be used to assess TC motion forecasts from any numerical modeling system.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Corresponding author address: Thomas J. Galarneau Jr., National Center for Atmospheric Research, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307. E-mail: tomjr@ucar.edu

Abstract

This paper reports on the development of a diagnostic approach that can be used to examine the sources of numerical model forecast error that contribute to degraded tropical cyclone (TC) motion forecasts. Tropical cyclone motion forecasts depend upon skillful prediction of the environment wind field, and by extension, the synoptic-scale weather systems nearby the TC. While previous research suggests that the deep-layer mean (DLM) steering flow typically approximates the actual TC motion, it is shown that the motion of even mature TCs can depart from the DLM steering flow. An optimal environmental steering flow is defined, which varies the vertical extent of the steering layer and the radius over which TC vorticity and divergence are removed.

Errors in predicted TC motion are quantified using a diagnostic equation that accounts for not only differences in the synoptic-scale flow, but also differences in the depth and radius used to define the steering flow. Differences in the latter two parameters are interpreted in terms of errors in predicted TC structure or errors in proximate mesoscale flow features. Results from an analysis of 24-h forecasts from the Advanced Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting Model during the 2008–10 North Atlantic TC seasons show that forecast motion errors are dominated by errors in the environment wind field. Contributions from other terms are occasionally large and are interpreted from a vorticity perspective. The utility of this new diagnostic equation is that it can be used to assess TC motion forecasts from any numerical modeling system.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Corresponding author address: Thomas J. Galarneau Jr., National Center for Atmospheric Research, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307. E-mail: tomjr@ucar.edu
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