The Effect of Upstream Convection on Downstream Precipitation

Kelly M. Mahoney Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

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Gary M. Lackmann Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

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Abstract

Operational forecasters in the southeast and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States have noted a positive quantitative precipitation forecast (QPF) bias in numerical weather prediction (NWP) model forecasts downstream of some organized, cold-season convective systems. Examination of cold-season cases in which model QPF guidance exhibited large errors allowed identification of two representative cases for detailed analysis. The goals of the case study analyses are to (i) identify physical mechanisms through which the upstream convection (UC) alters downstream precipitation amounts, (ii) determine why operational models are challenged to provide accurate guidance in these situations, and (iii) suggest future research directions that would improve model forecasts in these situations and allow forecasters to better anticipate such events. Two primary scenarios are identified during which downstream precipitation is altered in the presence of UC for the study region: (i) a fast-moving convective (FC) scenario in which organized convective systems oriented parallel to the lower-tropospheric flow are progressive relative to the parent synoptic system, and appear to disrupt poleward moisture transport, and (ii) a situation characterized by slower-moving convection (SC) relative to the parent system. Analysis of a representative FC case indicated that moisture consumption, stabilization via convective overturning, and modification of the low-level flow to a more westerly direction in the postconvective environment all appear to contribute to the reduction of downstream precipitation. In the FC case, operational Eta Model forecasts moved the organized UC too slowly, resulting in an overestimate of downstream moisture transport. A 4-km explicit convection model forecast from the Weather Research and Forecasting model produced a faster-moving upstream convective system and improved downstream QPF. In contrast to the FC event, latent heat release in the primary rainband is shown to enhance the low-level jet ahead of the convection in the SC case, thereby increasing moisture transport into the downstream region. A negative model QPF bias was observed in Eta Model forecasts for the SC event. Suggestions are made for precipitation forecasting in UC situations, and implications for NWP model configuration are discussed.

Corresponding author address: Kelly Mahoney, Dept. of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, Box 8208, North Carolina State University, 1125 Jordan Hall, Raleigh, NC 27695-8208. Email: kmmahon2@ncsu.edu

Abstract

Operational forecasters in the southeast and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States have noted a positive quantitative precipitation forecast (QPF) bias in numerical weather prediction (NWP) model forecasts downstream of some organized, cold-season convective systems. Examination of cold-season cases in which model QPF guidance exhibited large errors allowed identification of two representative cases for detailed analysis. The goals of the case study analyses are to (i) identify physical mechanisms through which the upstream convection (UC) alters downstream precipitation amounts, (ii) determine why operational models are challenged to provide accurate guidance in these situations, and (iii) suggest future research directions that would improve model forecasts in these situations and allow forecasters to better anticipate such events. Two primary scenarios are identified during which downstream precipitation is altered in the presence of UC for the study region: (i) a fast-moving convective (FC) scenario in which organized convective systems oriented parallel to the lower-tropospheric flow are progressive relative to the parent synoptic system, and appear to disrupt poleward moisture transport, and (ii) a situation characterized by slower-moving convection (SC) relative to the parent system. Analysis of a representative FC case indicated that moisture consumption, stabilization via convective overturning, and modification of the low-level flow to a more westerly direction in the postconvective environment all appear to contribute to the reduction of downstream precipitation. In the FC case, operational Eta Model forecasts moved the organized UC too slowly, resulting in an overestimate of downstream moisture transport. A 4-km explicit convection model forecast from the Weather Research and Forecasting model produced a faster-moving upstream convective system and improved downstream QPF. In contrast to the FC event, latent heat release in the primary rainband is shown to enhance the low-level jet ahead of the convection in the SC case, thereby increasing moisture transport into the downstream region. A negative model QPF bias was observed in Eta Model forecasts for the SC event. Suggestions are made for precipitation forecasting in UC situations, and implications for NWP model configuration are discussed.

Corresponding author address: Kelly Mahoney, Dept. of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, Box 8208, North Carolina State University, 1125 Jordan Hall, Raleigh, NC 27695-8208. Email: kmmahon2@ncsu.edu

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