SHIPS-MI Forecast Analysis of Hurricanes Claudette (2003), Isabel (2003), and Dora (1999)

Thomas A. Jones Department of Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, Alabama

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Daniel J. Cecil Department of Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, Alabama

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Abstract

Three hurricanes, Claudette (2003), Isabel (2003), and Dora (1999), were selected to examine the Statistical Hurricane Intensity Prediction Scheme with Microwave Imagery (SHIPS-MI) forecast accuracy for three particular storm types. This research was conducted using model analyses and tropical cyclone best-track data, with forecasts generated from a dependent sample. The model analyses and best-track data are assumed to be a “perfect” representation of the actual event (e.g., perfect prog assumption). Analysis of intensity change forecasts indicated that SHIPS-MI performed best, compared to operational SHIPS output, for tropical cyclones that were intensifying from tropical storm to hurricane intensity. Passive microwave imagery, which is sensitive to the intensity and coverage of precipitation, improved intensity forecasts during these periods with a positive intensity change contribution resulting from above normal inner-core precipitation. Forecast improvement was greatest for 12–36-h forecasts, where the microwave contribution to SHIPS-MI was greatest. Once a storm reached an intensity close to its maximum potential intensity, as in the case of Isabel and Dora, both SHIPS and SHIPS-MI incorrectly forecast substantial weakening despite the positive contribution from microwave data. At least in Dora’s case, SHIPS-MI forecasts were slightly stronger than those of SHIPS. Other important contributions to SHIPS-MI forecasts were examined to determine their importance relative to the microwave inputs. Inputs related to sea surface temperature (SST) and persistence–climatology proved to be very important to intensity change forecasts, as expected. These predictors were the primary factor leading to the persistent weakening forecasts made by both models for Isabel and Dora. For Atlantic storms (Claudette and Isabel), the contribution from shear also proved important at characterizing the conduciveness of the environment toward intensification. However, the shear contribution was often small as a result of multiple offsetting shear-related predictors. Finally, it was observed that atmospheric parameters not included in SHIPS, such as eddy momentum flux, could substantially affect the intensity, leading to large forecast errors. This was especially true for the Claudette intensity change forecasts throughout its life cycle.

Corresponding author address: Thomas Jones, Dept. of Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama in Huntsville, 320 Sparkman Dr., Huntsville, AL 35805. Email: tjones@nsstc.uah.edu

Abstract

Three hurricanes, Claudette (2003), Isabel (2003), and Dora (1999), were selected to examine the Statistical Hurricane Intensity Prediction Scheme with Microwave Imagery (SHIPS-MI) forecast accuracy for three particular storm types. This research was conducted using model analyses and tropical cyclone best-track data, with forecasts generated from a dependent sample. The model analyses and best-track data are assumed to be a “perfect” representation of the actual event (e.g., perfect prog assumption). Analysis of intensity change forecasts indicated that SHIPS-MI performed best, compared to operational SHIPS output, for tropical cyclones that were intensifying from tropical storm to hurricane intensity. Passive microwave imagery, which is sensitive to the intensity and coverage of precipitation, improved intensity forecasts during these periods with a positive intensity change contribution resulting from above normal inner-core precipitation. Forecast improvement was greatest for 12–36-h forecasts, where the microwave contribution to SHIPS-MI was greatest. Once a storm reached an intensity close to its maximum potential intensity, as in the case of Isabel and Dora, both SHIPS and SHIPS-MI incorrectly forecast substantial weakening despite the positive contribution from microwave data. At least in Dora’s case, SHIPS-MI forecasts were slightly stronger than those of SHIPS. Other important contributions to SHIPS-MI forecasts were examined to determine their importance relative to the microwave inputs. Inputs related to sea surface temperature (SST) and persistence–climatology proved to be very important to intensity change forecasts, as expected. These predictors were the primary factor leading to the persistent weakening forecasts made by both models for Isabel and Dora. For Atlantic storms (Claudette and Isabel), the contribution from shear also proved important at characterizing the conduciveness of the environment toward intensification. However, the shear contribution was often small as a result of multiple offsetting shear-related predictors. Finally, it was observed that atmospheric parameters not included in SHIPS, such as eddy momentum flux, could substantially affect the intensity, leading to large forecast errors. This was especially true for the Claudette intensity change forecasts throughout its life cycle.

Corresponding author address: Thomas Jones, Dept. of Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama in Huntsville, 320 Sparkman Dr., Huntsville, AL 35805. Email: tjones@nsstc.uah.edu

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