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Quantitative Precipitation Forecasting for the Tennessee and Cumberland River Watersheds Using the NCEP Regional Spectral Model

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  • 1 Tennessee Valley Authority, Muscle Shoals, Alabama
  • | 2 National Centers for Environmental Prediction, Washington, D.C.
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Abstract

A limited-area spectral model—the Regional Spectral Model—developed at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction is used to prepare daily quantitative precipitation forecasts out to 48 h for the Tennessee and Cumberland River basins in the southeastern United States. One year of these forecasts is evaluated against data from a network of 243 rain gauges and against traditional man–machine forecasts provided under contract to Tennessee Valley Authority river system managers. The intent of this study was to determine whether the model forecasts, made at greater spatial resolution than those typically available from other sources, offered any advantages to water resource managers responsible for making critical day-to-day decisions affecting flood control, navigation, and hydropower production. The model’s performance, determined using a variety of statistical measures, was found to be more accurate than the traditional forecasts. In particular, the model had less bias and lower root-mean-square error, and was more accurate in the timing of precipitation events. The model’s advantage was especially evident in 24–48-h forecasts and for heavy precipitation events. Three specific case studies of model performance are described to illustrate the model’s abilities under conditions that could significantly influence river management decisions.

* Current affiliation: Earth System Science Laboratory, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, Alabama.

Corresponding author address: Stephen F. Mueller, TVA, P.O. Box 1010, Muscle Shoals, AL 35662-1010.

Email: sfmueller@tva.gov

Abstract

A limited-area spectral model—the Regional Spectral Model—developed at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction is used to prepare daily quantitative precipitation forecasts out to 48 h for the Tennessee and Cumberland River basins in the southeastern United States. One year of these forecasts is evaluated against data from a network of 243 rain gauges and against traditional man–machine forecasts provided under contract to Tennessee Valley Authority river system managers. The intent of this study was to determine whether the model forecasts, made at greater spatial resolution than those typically available from other sources, offered any advantages to water resource managers responsible for making critical day-to-day decisions affecting flood control, navigation, and hydropower production. The model’s performance, determined using a variety of statistical measures, was found to be more accurate than the traditional forecasts. In particular, the model had less bias and lower root-mean-square error, and was more accurate in the timing of precipitation events. The model’s advantage was especially evident in 24–48-h forecasts and for heavy precipitation events. Three specific case studies of model performance are described to illustrate the model’s abilities under conditions that could significantly influence river management decisions.

* Current affiliation: Earth System Science Laboratory, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, Alabama.

Corresponding author address: Stephen F. Mueller, TVA, P.O. Box 1010, Muscle Shoals, AL 35662-1010.

Email: sfmueller@tva.gov

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