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Examination of Errors in Near-Surface Temperature and Wind from WRF Numerical Simulations in Regions of Complex Terrain

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • | 2 Computational Engineering and Science, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
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Abstract

The performance of an advanced research version of the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) in predicting near-surface atmospheric temperature and wind conditions under various terrain and weather regimes is examined. Verification of 2-m temperature and 10-m wind speed and direction against surface Mesonet observations is conducted. Three individual events under strong synoptic forcings (i.e., a frontal system, a low-level jet, and a persistent inversion) are first evaluated. It is found that the WRF model is able to reproduce these weather phenomena reasonably well. Forecasts of near-surface variables in flat terrain generally agree well with observations, but errors also occur, depending on the predictability of the lower-atmospheric boundary layer. In complex terrain, forecasts not only suffer from the model's inability to reproduce accurate atmospheric conditions in the lower atmosphere but also struggle with representative issues due to mismatches between the model and the actual terrain. In addition, surface forecasts at finer resolutions do not always outperform those at coarser resolutions. Increasing the vertical resolution may not help predict the near-surface variables, although it does improve the forecasts of the structure of mesoscale weather phenomena. A statistical analysis is also performed for 120 forecasts during a 1-month period to further investigate forecast error characteristics in complex terrain. Results illustrate that forecast errors in near-surface variables depend strongly on the diurnal variation in surface conditions, especially when synoptic forcing is weak. Under strong synoptic forcing, the diurnal patterns in the errors break down, while the flow-dependent errors are clearly shown.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Zhaoxia Pu, Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences, Rm. 819, University of Utah, 135 S 1460 E, Salt Lake City, UT 84112. E-mail: zhaoxia.pu@utah.edu

This article is included in the Mountain Terrain Atmospheric Modeling and Observations (MATERHORN) special collection.

Abstract

The performance of an advanced research version of the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) in predicting near-surface atmospheric temperature and wind conditions under various terrain and weather regimes is examined. Verification of 2-m temperature and 10-m wind speed and direction against surface Mesonet observations is conducted. Three individual events under strong synoptic forcings (i.e., a frontal system, a low-level jet, and a persistent inversion) are first evaluated. It is found that the WRF model is able to reproduce these weather phenomena reasonably well. Forecasts of near-surface variables in flat terrain generally agree well with observations, but errors also occur, depending on the predictability of the lower-atmospheric boundary layer. In complex terrain, forecasts not only suffer from the model's inability to reproduce accurate atmospheric conditions in the lower atmosphere but also struggle with representative issues due to mismatches between the model and the actual terrain. In addition, surface forecasts at finer resolutions do not always outperform those at coarser resolutions. Increasing the vertical resolution may not help predict the near-surface variables, although it does improve the forecasts of the structure of mesoscale weather phenomena. A statistical analysis is also performed for 120 forecasts during a 1-month period to further investigate forecast error characteristics in complex terrain. Results illustrate that forecast errors in near-surface variables depend strongly on the diurnal variation in surface conditions, especially when synoptic forcing is weak. Under strong synoptic forcing, the diurnal patterns in the errors break down, while the flow-dependent errors are clearly shown.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Zhaoxia Pu, Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences, Rm. 819, University of Utah, 135 S 1460 E, Salt Lake City, UT 84112. E-mail: zhaoxia.pu@utah.edu

This article is included in the Mountain Terrain Atmospheric Modeling and Observations (MATERHORN) special collection.

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