Examination of Mixed-Phase Precipitation Forecasts from the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh Model Using Surface Observations and Sounding Data

Kyoko Ikeda National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

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Matthias Steiner National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

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Gregory Thompson National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

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Abstract

Accurate prediction of mixed-phase precipitation remains challenging for numerical weather prediction models even at high resolution and with a sophisticated explicit microphysics scheme and diagnostic algorithm to designate the surface precipitation type. Since mixed-phase winter weather precipitation can damage infrastructure and produce significant disruptions to air and road travel, incorrect surface precipitation phase forecasts can have major consequences for local and statewide decision-makers as well as the general public. Building upon earlier work, this study examines the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) model’s ability to forecast the surface precipitation phase, with a particular focus on model-predicted vertical temperature profiles associated with mixed-phase precipitation, using upper-air sounding observations as well as the Automated Surface Observing Systems (ASOS) and Meteorological Phenomena Identification Near the Ground (mPING) observations. The analyses concentrate on regions of mixed-phase precipitation from two winter season events. The results show that when both the observational and model data indicated mixed-phase precipitation at the surface, the model represents the observed temperature profile well. Overall, cases where the model predicted rain but the observations indicated mixed-phase precipitation generally show a model surface temperature bias of <2°C and a vertical temperature profile similar to the sounding observations. However, the surface temperature bias was ~4°C in weather systems involving cold-air damming in the eastern United States, resulting in an incorrect surface precipitation phase or the duration (areal coverage) of freezing rain being much shorter (smaller) than the observation. Cases with predicted snow in regions of observed mixed-phase precipitation present subtle difference in the elevated layer with temperatures near 0°C and the near-surface layer.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

© 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: Kyoko Ikeda, kyoko@ucar.edu

Abstract

Accurate prediction of mixed-phase precipitation remains challenging for numerical weather prediction models even at high resolution and with a sophisticated explicit microphysics scheme and diagnostic algorithm to designate the surface precipitation type. Since mixed-phase winter weather precipitation can damage infrastructure and produce significant disruptions to air and road travel, incorrect surface precipitation phase forecasts can have major consequences for local and statewide decision-makers as well as the general public. Building upon earlier work, this study examines the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) model’s ability to forecast the surface precipitation phase, with a particular focus on model-predicted vertical temperature profiles associated with mixed-phase precipitation, using upper-air sounding observations as well as the Automated Surface Observing Systems (ASOS) and Meteorological Phenomena Identification Near the Ground (mPING) observations. The analyses concentrate on regions of mixed-phase precipitation from two winter season events. The results show that when both the observational and model data indicated mixed-phase precipitation at the surface, the model represents the observed temperature profile well. Overall, cases where the model predicted rain but the observations indicated mixed-phase precipitation generally show a model surface temperature bias of <2°C and a vertical temperature profile similar to the sounding observations. However, the surface temperature bias was ~4°C in weather systems involving cold-air damming in the eastern United States, resulting in an incorrect surface precipitation phase or the duration (areal coverage) of freezing rain being much shorter (smaller) than the observation. Cases with predicted snow in regions of observed mixed-phase precipitation present subtle difference in the elevated layer with temperatures near 0°C and the near-surface layer.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

© 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: Kyoko Ikeda, kyoko@ucar.edu
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