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Impact of Radiosonde Balloon Drift on Numerical Weather Prediction and Verification

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  • 1 Data Assimilation and Satellite Meteorology Section, Environment Canada, Dorval, Québec, Canada
  • | 2 Data Assimilation and Quality Control Section, Environment Canada, Dorval, Québec, Canada
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Abstract

Radiosonde observations employed in real-time numerical weather prediction (NWP) applications are disseminated through the Global Telecommunication System (GTS) using alphanumeric codes. These codes do not include information about the position and elapsed ascent time of the balloon. Consequently, the horizontal balloon drift has generally been either ignored or estimated in data assimilation systems for NWP. With the increasing resolution of atmospheric models, it is now important to consider the positions and times of radiosonde data in both data assimilation and forecast verification systems. This information is now available in the Binary Universal Form for the Representation of Meteorological Data (BUFR) code for radiosonde data. This latter code will progressively replace the alphanumeric codes for all radiosonde data transmitted on the GTS. As a result, a strategy should be adopted by NWP centers to deal with the various codes for radiosonde data during this transition. In this work, a method for estimating the balloon drift position from reported horizontal wind components and a representative elapsed ascent time profile are developed and tested. This allows for estimating the missing positions and times information of radiosonde data in alphanumeric reports, and then for processing them like those available in BUFR code. The impact of neglecting the balloon position in data assimilation and verification systems is shown to be significant in short-range forecasts in the upper troposphere and stratosphere, especially for the zonal wind field in the Northern Hemisphere winter season. Medium-range forecasts are also improved overall when the horizontal position of radiosonde data is retrieved.

Corresponding author address: Stéphane Laroche, Data Assimilation and Satellite Meteorology Section, Environment Canada, 2121 Route Trans-Canadienne, Dorval, QC H9P 1J3, Canada. E-mail: stephane.laroche@ec.gc.ca

Abstract

Radiosonde observations employed in real-time numerical weather prediction (NWP) applications are disseminated through the Global Telecommunication System (GTS) using alphanumeric codes. These codes do not include information about the position and elapsed ascent time of the balloon. Consequently, the horizontal balloon drift has generally been either ignored or estimated in data assimilation systems for NWP. With the increasing resolution of atmospheric models, it is now important to consider the positions and times of radiosonde data in both data assimilation and forecast verification systems. This information is now available in the Binary Universal Form for the Representation of Meteorological Data (BUFR) code for radiosonde data. This latter code will progressively replace the alphanumeric codes for all radiosonde data transmitted on the GTS. As a result, a strategy should be adopted by NWP centers to deal with the various codes for radiosonde data during this transition. In this work, a method for estimating the balloon drift position from reported horizontal wind components and a representative elapsed ascent time profile are developed and tested. This allows for estimating the missing positions and times information of radiosonde data in alphanumeric reports, and then for processing them like those available in BUFR code. The impact of neglecting the balloon position in data assimilation and verification systems is shown to be significant in short-range forecasts in the upper troposphere and stratosphere, especially for the zonal wind field in the Northern Hemisphere winter season. Medium-range forecasts are also improved overall when the horizontal position of radiosonde data is retrieved.

Corresponding author address: Stéphane Laroche, Data Assimilation and Satellite Meteorology Section, Environment Canada, 2121 Route Trans-Canadienne, Dorval, QC H9P 1J3, Canada. E-mail: stephane.laroche@ec.gc.ca
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