A Case Study Investigating the Low Summertime CAPE Behavior in the Global Forecast System

Xia Sun aCooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, Colorado
bNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Global Systems Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado
dDevelopmental Testbed Center, Boulder, Colorado

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Dominikus Heinzeller aCooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, Colorado
bNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Global Systems Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado
dDevelopmental Testbed Center, Boulder, Colorado

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Ligia Bernardet bNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Global Systems Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

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Linlin Pan aCooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, Colorado
bNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Global Systems Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado
dDevelopmental Testbed Center, Boulder, Colorado

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Weiwei Li cNational Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
dDevelopmental Testbed Center, Boulder, Colorado

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David Turner bNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Global Systems Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

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John Brown bNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Global Systems Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

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Abstract

Convective available potential energy (CAPE) is an important index for storm forecasting. Recent versions (v15.2 and v16) of the Global Forecast System (GFS) predict lower values of CAPE during summertime in the continental United States than analysis and observation. We conducted an evaluation of the GFS in simulating summertime CAPE using an example from the Unified Forecast System Case Study collection to investigate the factors that lead to the low CAPE bias in GFS. Specifically, we investigated the surface energy budget, soil properties, and near-surface and upper-level meteorological fields. Results show that the GFS simulates smaller surface latent heat flux and larger surface sensible heat flux than the observations. This can be attributed to the slightly drier-than-observed soil moisture in the GFS that comes from an offline global land data assimilation system. The lower simulated CAPE in GFS v16 is related to the early drop of surface net radiation with excessive boundary layer cloud after midday when compared with GFS v15.2. A moisture-budget analysis indicates that errors in the large-scale advection of water vapor does not contribute to the dry bias in the GFS at low levels. Common Community Physics Package single-column model (SCM) experiments suggest that with realistic initial vertical profiles, SCM simulations generate a larger CAPE than runs with GFS IC. SCM runs with an active LSM tend to produce smaller CAPE than that with prescribed surface fluxes. Note that the findings are only applicable to this case study. Including more warm-season cases would enhance the generalizability of our findings.

Significance Statement

Convective available potential energy (CAPE) is one of the key parameters for severe weather analysis. The low bias of CAPE is identified by forecasters as one of the key issues for the NOAA operational global numerical weather prediction model, Global Forecast System (GFS). Our case study shows that the lower CAPE in GFS is related to the drier atmosphere than observed within the lowest 1 km. Further investigations suggest that it is related to the drier atmosphere that already exists in the initial conditions, which are produced by the Global Data Assimilation System, in which an earlier 6-h GFS forecast is combined with current observations. It is also attributed to the slightly lower simulated soil moisture than observed. The lower CAPE in GFS v16 when compared with GFS v15.2 in the case analyzed here is related to excessive boundary layer cloud formation beginning at midday that leads to a drop of net radiation reaching the surface and thus less latent heat feeding back to the low-level atmosphere.

Heinzeller’s current affiliation: Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation, UCAR Community Programs, Boulder, Colorado.

© 2023 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Xia Sun, xia.sun@noaa.com

Abstract

Convective available potential energy (CAPE) is an important index for storm forecasting. Recent versions (v15.2 and v16) of the Global Forecast System (GFS) predict lower values of CAPE during summertime in the continental United States than analysis and observation. We conducted an evaluation of the GFS in simulating summertime CAPE using an example from the Unified Forecast System Case Study collection to investigate the factors that lead to the low CAPE bias in GFS. Specifically, we investigated the surface energy budget, soil properties, and near-surface and upper-level meteorological fields. Results show that the GFS simulates smaller surface latent heat flux and larger surface sensible heat flux than the observations. This can be attributed to the slightly drier-than-observed soil moisture in the GFS that comes from an offline global land data assimilation system. The lower simulated CAPE in GFS v16 is related to the early drop of surface net radiation with excessive boundary layer cloud after midday when compared with GFS v15.2. A moisture-budget analysis indicates that errors in the large-scale advection of water vapor does not contribute to the dry bias in the GFS at low levels. Common Community Physics Package single-column model (SCM) experiments suggest that with realistic initial vertical profiles, SCM simulations generate a larger CAPE than runs with GFS IC. SCM runs with an active LSM tend to produce smaller CAPE than that with prescribed surface fluxes. Note that the findings are only applicable to this case study. Including more warm-season cases would enhance the generalizability of our findings.

Significance Statement

Convective available potential energy (CAPE) is one of the key parameters for severe weather analysis. The low bias of CAPE is identified by forecasters as one of the key issues for the NOAA operational global numerical weather prediction model, Global Forecast System (GFS). Our case study shows that the lower CAPE in GFS is related to the drier atmosphere than observed within the lowest 1 km. Further investigations suggest that it is related to the drier atmosphere that already exists in the initial conditions, which are produced by the Global Data Assimilation System, in which an earlier 6-h GFS forecast is combined with current observations. It is also attributed to the slightly lower simulated soil moisture than observed. The lower CAPE in GFS v16 when compared with GFS v15.2 in the case analyzed here is related to excessive boundary layer cloud formation beginning at midday that leads to a drop of net radiation reaching the surface and thus less latent heat feeding back to the low-level atmosphere.

Heinzeller’s current affiliation: Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation, UCAR Community Programs, Boulder, Colorado.

© 2023 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Xia Sun, xia.sun@noaa.com

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