An Evaluation of Non-Gaussian Data Assimilation Methods in Moist Convective Regimes

Joshua McCurry aUniversity of Maryland, College Park, College Park, Maryland

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Jonathan Poterjoy aUniversity of Maryland, College Park, College Park, Maryland

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Kent Knopfmeier bCooperative Institute for Severe and High-Impact Weather Research and Operations, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

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Louis Wicker cNOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma

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Abstract

Obtaining a faithful probabilistic depiction of moist convection is complicated by unknown errors in subgrid-scale physical parameterization schemes, invalid assumptions made by data assimilation (DA) techniques, and high system dimensionality. As an initial step toward untangling sources of uncertainty in convective weather regimes, we evaluate a novel Bayesian data assimilation methodology based on particle filtering within a WRF ensemble analysis and forecasting system. Unlike most geophysical DA methods, the particle filter (PF) represents prior and posterior error distributions nonparametrically rather than assuming a Gaussian distribution and can accept any type of likelihood function. This approach is known to reduce bias introduced by Gaussian approximations in low-dimensional and idealized contexts. The form of PF used in this research adopts a dimension-reduction strategy, making it affordable for typical weather applications. The present study examines posterior ensemble members and forecasts for select severe weather events between 2019 and 2020, comparing results from the PF with those from an ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF). We find that assimilating with a PF produces posterior quantities for microphysical variables that are more consistent with model climatology than comparable quantities from an EnKF, which we attribute to a reduction in DA bias. These differences are significant enough to impact the dynamic evolution of convective systems via cold pool strength and propagation, with impacts to forecast verification scores depending on the particular microphysics scheme. Our findings have broad implications for future approaches to the selection of physical parameterization schemes and parameter estimation within preexisting data assimilation frameworks.

Significance Statement

The accurate prediction of severe storms using numerical weather models depends on effective parameterization schemes for small-scale processes and the assimilation of incomplete observational data in a manner that faithfully represents the probabilistic state of the atmosphere. Current generation methods for data assimilation typically assume a standard form for the error distributions of relevant quantities, which can introduce bias that not only hinders numerical prediction, but that can also confound the characterization of errors from the model itself. The current study performs data assimilation using a novel method that does not make such assumptions and explores characteristics of resulting model fields and forecasts that might make such a method useful for improving model parameterization schemes.

© 2023 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Joshua McCurry, jmccurry@umd.edu

Abstract

Obtaining a faithful probabilistic depiction of moist convection is complicated by unknown errors in subgrid-scale physical parameterization schemes, invalid assumptions made by data assimilation (DA) techniques, and high system dimensionality. As an initial step toward untangling sources of uncertainty in convective weather regimes, we evaluate a novel Bayesian data assimilation methodology based on particle filtering within a WRF ensemble analysis and forecasting system. Unlike most geophysical DA methods, the particle filter (PF) represents prior and posterior error distributions nonparametrically rather than assuming a Gaussian distribution and can accept any type of likelihood function. This approach is known to reduce bias introduced by Gaussian approximations in low-dimensional and idealized contexts. The form of PF used in this research adopts a dimension-reduction strategy, making it affordable for typical weather applications. The present study examines posterior ensemble members and forecasts for select severe weather events between 2019 and 2020, comparing results from the PF with those from an ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF). We find that assimilating with a PF produces posterior quantities for microphysical variables that are more consistent with model climatology than comparable quantities from an EnKF, which we attribute to a reduction in DA bias. These differences are significant enough to impact the dynamic evolution of convective systems via cold pool strength and propagation, with impacts to forecast verification scores depending on the particular microphysics scheme. Our findings have broad implications for future approaches to the selection of physical parameterization schemes and parameter estimation within preexisting data assimilation frameworks.

Significance Statement

The accurate prediction of severe storms using numerical weather models depends on effective parameterization schemes for small-scale processes and the assimilation of incomplete observational data in a manner that faithfully represents the probabilistic state of the atmosphere. Current generation methods for data assimilation typically assume a standard form for the error distributions of relevant quantities, which can introduce bias that not only hinders numerical prediction, but that can also confound the characterization of errors from the model itself. The current study performs data assimilation using a novel method that does not make such assumptions and explores characteristics of resulting model fields and forecasts that might make such a method useful for improving model parameterization schemes.

© 2023 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Joshua McCurry, jmccurry@umd.edu
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