Operational Storm Surge Forecasting at the National Hurricane Center: The Case for Probabilistic Guidance and the Evaluation of Improved Storm Size Forecasts Used to Define the Wind Forcing

Andrew B. Penny aUniversity Corporation for Atmospheric Research/Cooperative Programs for the Advancement of Earth System Science, Boulder, Colorado
bNational Hurricane Center, Miami, Florida

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Laura Alaka aUniversity Corporation for Atmospheric Research/Cooperative Programs for the Advancement of Earth System Science, Boulder, Colorado
bNational Hurricane Center, Miami, Florida

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Arthur A. Taylor cMeteorological Development Laboratory, Silver Spring, Maryland

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William Booth aUniversity Corporation for Atmospheric Research/Cooperative Programs for the Advancement of Earth System Science, Boulder, Colorado
bNational Hurricane Center, Miami, Florida

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Mark DeMaria dColorado State University/Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, Fort Collins, Colorado

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Cody Fritz bNational Hurricane Center, Miami, Florida

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Jamie Rhome bNational Hurricane Center, Miami, Florida

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Abstract

The primary source of guidance used by the Storm Surge Unit (SSU) at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) for issuing storm surge watches and warnings is the Probabilistic Tropical Storm Surge model (P-Surge). P-Surge is an ensemble of Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH) model forecasts that is generated based on historical error distributions from NHC official forecasts. A probabilistic framework is used for operational storm surge forecasting to account for uncertainty related to the tropical cyclone track and wind forcing. Previous studies have shown that the size of a storm’s wind field is an important factor that can affect storm surge. A simple radius of maximum wind (RMW) prediction scheme was developed to forecast RMW based on NHC forecast parameters. Verification results indicate this scheme is an improvement over the RMW forecasts used by previous versions of P-Surge. To test the impact of the updated RMW forecasts in P-Surge, retrospective cases were selected from 25 storms from 2008 to 2020 that had an adequate number of observations. Evaluation of P-Surge forecasts using these improved RMW forecasts shows that the probability of detection is higher for most probability of exceedance thresholds. In addition, the forecast reliability is improved, and there is an increase in the number of high probability forecasts for extreme events at longer lead times. The improved RMW forecasts were recently incorporated into the operational version of P-Surge (v2.9), and serve as an important step toward extending the lead time of skillful and reliable storm surge forecasts.

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

Corresponding author: Andrew B. Penny andrew.penny@noaa.gov

Abstract

The primary source of guidance used by the Storm Surge Unit (SSU) at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) for issuing storm surge watches and warnings is the Probabilistic Tropical Storm Surge model (P-Surge). P-Surge is an ensemble of Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH) model forecasts that is generated based on historical error distributions from NHC official forecasts. A probabilistic framework is used for operational storm surge forecasting to account for uncertainty related to the tropical cyclone track and wind forcing. Previous studies have shown that the size of a storm’s wind field is an important factor that can affect storm surge. A simple radius of maximum wind (RMW) prediction scheme was developed to forecast RMW based on NHC forecast parameters. Verification results indicate this scheme is an improvement over the RMW forecasts used by previous versions of P-Surge. To test the impact of the updated RMW forecasts in P-Surge, retrospective cases were selected from 25 storms from 2008 to 2020 that had an adequate number of observations. Evaluation of P-Surge forecasts using these improved RMW forecasts shows that the probability of detection is higher for most probability of exceedance thresholds. In addition, the forecast reliability is improved, and there is an increase in the number of high probability forecasts for extreme events at longer lead times. The improved RMW forecasts were recently incorporated into the operational version of P-Surge (v2.9), and serve as an important step toward extending the lead time of skillful and reliable storm surge forecasts.

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

Corresponding author: Andrew B. Penny andrew.penny@noaa.gov
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