Evaluating Smartphone Pressure Observations for Mesoscale Analyses and Forecasts

Luke E. Madaus Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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Clifford F. Mass Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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Abstract

Smartphone pressure observations have the potential to greatly increase surface observation density on convection-resolving scales. Currently available smartphone pressure observations are tested through assimilation in a mesoscale ensemble for a 3-day, convectively active period in the eastern United States. Both raw pressure (altimeter) observations and 1-h pressure (altimeter) tendency observations are considered. The available observation density closely follows population density, but observations are also available in rural areas. The smartphone observations are found to contain significant noise, which can limit their effectiveness. The assimilated smartphone observations contribute to small improvements in 1-h forecasts of surface pressure and 10-m wind, but produce larger errors in 2-m temperature forecasts. Short-term (0–4 h) precipitation forecasts are improved when smartphone pressure and pressure tendency observations are assimilated as compared with an ensemble that assimilates no observations. However, these improvements are limited to broad, mesoscale features with minimal skill provided at convective scales using the current smartphone observation density. A specific mesoscale convective system (MCS) is examined in detail, and smartphone pressure observations captured the expected dynamic structures associated with this feature. Possibilities for further development of smartphone observations are discussed.

© 2017 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author e-mail: Luke E. Madaus, lmadaus@atmos.washington.edu

Abstract

Smartphone pressure observations have the potential to greatly increase surface observation density on convection-resolving scales. Currently available smartphone pressure observations are tested through assimilation in a mesoscale ensemble for a 3-day, convectively active period in the eastern United States. Both raw pressure (altimeter) observations and 1-h pressure (altimeter) tendency observations are considered. The available observation density closely follows population density, but observations are also available in rural areas. The smartphone observations are found to contain significant noise, which can limit their effectiveness. The assimilated smartphone observations contribute to small improvements in 1-h forecasts of surface pressure and 10-m wind, but produce larger errors in 2-m temperature forecasts. Short-term (0–4 h) precipitation forecasts are improved when smartphone pressure and pressure tendency observations are assimilated as compared with an ensemble that assimilates no observations. However, these improvements are limited to broad, mesoscale features with minimal skill provided at convective scales using the current smartphone observation density. A specific mesoscale convective system (MCS) is examined in detail, and smartphone pressure observations captured the expected dynamic structures associated with this feature. Possibilities for further development of smartphone observations are discussed.

© 2017 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author e-mail: Luke E. Madaus, lmadaus@atmos.washington.edu
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