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Jan Wandel
,
Julian F. Quinting
, and
Christian M. Grams

Abstract

Warm conveyor belts (WCBs) associated with extratropical cyclones transport air from the lower troposphere into the tropopause region and contribute to upper-level ridge building and the formation of blocking anticyclones. Recent studies indicate that this constitutes an important source and magnifier of forecast uncertainty and errors in numerical weather prediction (NWP) models. However, a systematic evaluation of the representation of WCBs in NWP models has yet to be determined. Here, we employ the logistic regression models developed in Part I to identify the inflow, ascent, and outflow stages of WCBs in the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) subseasonal reforecasts for Northern Hemisphere winter in the period January 1997 to December 2017. We verify the representation of these WCB stages in terms of systematic occurrence frequency biases, forecast reliability, and forecast skill. Systematic WCB frequency biases emerge already at early lead times of around 3 days with an underestimation for the WCB outflow over the North Atlantic and eastern North Pacific of around 40% relative to climatology. Biases in the predictor variables of the logistic regression models can partially explain these biases in WCB inflow, ascent, or outflow. Despite an overconfidence in predicting high WCB probabilities, skillful WCB forecasts are on average possible up to a lead time of 8–10 days with more skill over the North Pacific compared to the North Atlantic region. Our results corroborate that the current limited forecast skill for the large-scale extratropical circulation on subseasonal time scales beyond 10 days might be tied to the representation of WCBs and associated upscale error growth.

Open access
George C. Craig
,
Andreas H. Fink
,
Corinna Hoose
,
Tijana Janjić
,
Peter Knippertz
,
Audine Laurian
,
Sebastian Lerch
,
Bernhard Mayer
,
Annette Miltenberger
,
Robert Redl
,
Michael Riemer
,
Kirsten I. Tempest
, and
Volkmar Wirth

Abstract

Prediction of weather is a main goal of atmospheric science. Its importance to society is growing continuously due to factors such as vulnerability to natural disasters, the move to renewable energy sources, and the risks of climate change. But prediction is also a major scientific challenge due to the inherently limited predictability of a chaotic atmosphere, and has led to a revolution in forecasting methods as we have moved to probabilistic prediction. These changes provide the motivation for Waves to Weather (W2W), a major national research program in Germany with three main university partners in Munich, Mainz, and Karlsruhe. We are currently in the second 4-yr phase of our planned duration of 12 years and employ 36 doctoral and postdoctoral scientists. In the context of this large program, we address what we have identified to be the most important and challenging scientific questions in predictability of weather, namely, upscale error growth, errors associated with cloud processes, and probabilistic prediction of high-impact weather. This paper presents some key results of the first phase of W2W and discusses how they have influenced our understanding of predictability. The key role of interdisciplinary research linking atmospheric scientists with experts in visualization, statistics, numerical analysis, and inverse methods will be highlighted. To ensure a lasting impact on research in our field in Germany and internationally, we have instituted innovative programs for training and support of early-career scientists, and to support education, equal opportunities, and outreach, which are also described here.

Open access
Volkmar Wirth
and
Christopher Polster

Abstract

The waveguidability of an upper-tropospheric zonal jet quantifies its propensity to duct Rossby waves in the zonal direction. This property has played a central role in previous attempts to explain large wave amplitudes and the subsequent occurrence of extreme weather. In these studies, waveguidability was diagnosed with the help of ray tracing arguments using the zonal average of the observed flow as the relevant background state. Here, it is argued that this method is problematic both conceptually and mathematically. The issue is investigated in the framework of the nondivergent barotropic model. This model allows the straightforward computation of an alternative “zonalized” background state, which is obtained through conservative symmetrization of potential vorticity contours and that is argued to be superior to the zonal average. Using an idealized prototypical flow configuration with large-amplitude eddies, it is shown that the two different choices for the background state yield very different results; in particular, the zonal-mean background state diagnoses a zonal waveguide, while the zonalized background state does not. This result suggests that the existence of a waveguide in the zonal-mean background state is a consequence of, rather than a precondition for, large wave amplitudes, and it would mean that the direction of causality is opposite to the usual argument. The analysis is applied to two heatwave episodes from summer 2003 and 2010, yielding essentially the same result. It is concluded that previous arguments about the role of waveguidability for extreme weather need to be carefully reevaluated to prevent misinterpretation in the future.

Open access
Eva-Maria Walz
,
Marlon Maranan
,
Roderick van der Linden
,
Andreas H. Fink
, and
Peter Knippertz

Abstract

Current numerical weather prediction models show limited skill in predicting low-latitude precipitation. To aid future improvements, be it with better dynamical or statistical models, we propose a well-defined benchmark forecast. We use the arguably best available high-resolution, gauge-calibrated, gridded precipitation product, the Integrated Multisatellite Retrievals for GPM (IMERG) “final run” in a ±15-day window around the date of interest to build an empirical climatological ensemble forecast. This window size is an optimal compromise between statistical robustness and flexibility to represent seasonal changes. We refer to this benchmark as extended probabilistic climatology (EPC) and compute it on a 0.1° × 0.1° grid for 40°S–40°N and the period 2001–19. To reduce and standardize information, a mixed Bernoulli–Gamma distribution is fitted to the empirical EPC, which hardly affects predictive performance. The EPC is then compared to 1-day ensemble predictions from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) using standard verification scores. With respect to rainfall amount, ECMWF performs only slightly better than EPS over most of the low latitudes and worse over high-mountain and dry oceanic areas as well as over tropical Africa, where the lack of skill is also evident in independent station data. For rainfall occurrence, EPC is superior over most oceanic, coastal, and mountain regions, although the better potential predictive ability of ECMWF indicates that this is mostly due to calibration problems. To encourage the use of the new benchmark, we provide the data, scripts, and an interactive web tool to the scientific community.

Open access
Julian F. Quinting
and
Christian M. Grams

Abstract

The physical and dynamical processes associated with warm conveyor belts (WCBs) importantly affect midlatitude dynamics and are sources of forecast uncertainty. Moreover, WCBs modulate the large-scale extratropical circulation and can communicate and amplify forecast errors. Therefore, it is desirable to assess the representation of WCBs in numerical weather prediction (NWP) models in particular on the medium to subseasonal forecast range. Most often, WCBs are identified as coherent bundles of Lagrangian trajectories that ascend in a time interval of 2 days from the lower to the upper troposphere. Although this Lagrangian approach has advanced the understanding of the involved processes significantly, the calculation of trajectories is computationally expensive and requires NWP data at a high spatial [ O ( ~ 1 ) ], vertical [ O ( ~ 10 hPa ) ], and temporal resolution [ O ( ~ 3 6 h ) ]. In this study, we present a statistical framework that derives footprints of WCBs from coarser NWP data that are routinely available. To this end, gridpoint-specific multivariate logistic regression models are developed for the Northern Hemisphere using meteorological parameters from ERA-Interim data as predictors and binary footprints of WCB inflow, ascent, and outflow based on a Lagrangian dataset as predictands. Stepwise forward selection identifies the most important predictors for these three WCB stages. The logistic models are reliable in replicating the climatological frequency of WCBs as well as the footprints of WCBs at instantaneous time steps. The novel framework is a first step toward a systematic evaluation of WCB representation in large datasets such as subseasonal ensemble reforecasts or climate projections.

Full access
Peter Vogel
,
Peter Knippertz
,
Andreas H. Fink
,
Andreas Schlueter
, and
Tilmann Gneiting

Abstract

Precipitation forecasts are of large societal value in the tropics. Here, we compare 1–5-day ensemble predictions from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF, 2009–17) and the Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC, 2009–16) over 30°S–30°N with an extended probabilistic climatology based on the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission 3 B42 gridded dataset. Both models predict rainfall occurrence better than the reference only over about half of all land points, with a better performance by MSC. After applying the postprocessing technique ensemble model output statistics, this fraction increases to 87% (ECMWF) and 82% (MSC). For rainfall amount there is skill in many tropical areas (about 60% of land points), which can be increased by postprocessing to 97% (ECMWF) and 88% (MSC). Forecasts for extremes (>20 mm) are only marginally worse than those of occurrence but do not improve as much through postprocessing, particularly over dry areas. Forecast performance is generally best over arid Australia and worst over oceanic deserts, the Andes and Himalayas, as well as over tropical Africa, where models misrepresent the high degree of convective organization, such that even postprocessed forecasts are hardly better than climatology. Skill of 5-day accumulated forecasts often exceeds that of shorter ranges, as timing errors matter less. An increase in resolution and major model update in 2010 has significantly improved ECMWF predictions. Especially over tropical Africa new techniques such as convection-permitting models or combined statistical-dynamical forecasts may be needed to generate skill beyond the climatological reference.

Open access
Mares Barekzai
and
Bernhard Mayer

Abstract

Despite impressive advances in rain forecasts over the past decades, our understanding of rain formation on a microphysical scale is still poor. Droplet growth initially occurs through diffusion and, for sufficiently large radii, through the collision of droplets. However, there is no consensus on the mechanism to bridge the condensation coalescence bottleneck. We extend the analysis of prior methods by including radiatively enhanced diffusional growth (RAD) to a Markovian turbulence parameterization. This addition increases the diffusional growth efficiency by allowing for emission and absorption of thermal radiation. Specifically, we quantify an upper estimate for the radiative effect by focusing on droplets close to the cloud boundary. The strength of this simple model is that it determines growth-rate dependencies on a number of parameters, like updraft speed and the radiative effect, in a deterministic way. Realistic calculations with a cloud-resolving model are sensitive to parameter changes, which may cause completely different cloud realizations and thus it requires considerable computational power to obtain statistically significant results. The simulations suggest that the addition of radiative cooling can lead to a doubling of the droplet size standard deviation. However, the magnitude of the increase depends strongly on the broadening established by turbulence, due to an increase in the maximum droplet size, which accelerates the production of drizzle. Furthermore, the broadening caused by the combination of turbulence and thermal radiation is largest for small updrafts and the impact of radiation increases with time until it becomes dominant for slow synoptic updrafts.

Free access
Y. Ruckstuhl
and
T. Janjić

Abstract

We investigate the feasibility of addressing model error by perturbing and estimating uncertain static model parameters using the localized ensemble transform Kalman filter. In particular we use the augmented state approach, where parameters are updated by observations via their correlation with observed state variables. This online approach offers a flexible, yet consistent way to better fit model variables affected by the chosen parameters to observations, while ensuring feasible model states. We show in a nearly operational convection-permitting configuration that the prediction of clouds and precipitation with the COSMO-DE model is improved if the two-dimensional roughness length parameter is estimated with the augmented state approach. Here, the targeted model error is the roughness length itself and the surface fluxes, which influence the initiation of convection. At analysis time, Gaussian noise with a specified correlation matrix is added to the roughness length to regulate the parameter spread. In the northern part of the COSMO-DE domain, where the terrain is mostly flat and assimilated surface wind measurements are dense, estimating the roughness length led to improved forecasts of up to 6 h of clouds and precipitation. In the southern part of the domain, the parameter estimation was detrimental unless the correlation length scale of the Gaussian noise that is added to the roughness length is increased. The impact of the parameter estimation was found to be larger when synoptic forcing is weak and the model output is more sensitive to the roughness length.

Open access
Tobias Necker
,
Martin Weissmann
,
Yvonne Ruckstuhl
,
Jeffrey Anderson
, and
Takemasa Miyoshi

Abstract

State-of-the-art ensemble prediction systems usually provide ensembles with only 20–250 members for estimating the uncertainty of the forecast and its spatial and spatiotemporal covariance. Given that the degrees of freedom of atmospheric models are several magnitudes higher, the estimates are therefore substantially affected by sampling errors. For error covariances, spurious correlations lead to random sampling errors, but also a systematic overestimation of the correlation. A common approach to mitigate the impact of sampling errors for data assimilation is to localize correlations. However, this is a challenging task given that physical correlations in the atmosphere can extend over long distances. Besides data assimilation, sampling errors pose an issue for the investigation of spatiotemporal correlations using ensemble sensitivity analysis. Our study evaluates a statistical approach for correcting sampling errors. The applied sampling error correction is a lookup table–based approach and therefore computationally very efficient. We show that this approach substantially improves both the estimates of spatial correlations for data assimilation as well as spatiotemporal correlations for ensemble sensitivity analysis. The evaluation is performed using the first convective-scale 1000-member ensemble simulation for central Europe. Correlations of the 1000-member ensemble forecast serve as truth to assess the performance of the sampling error correction for smaller subsets of the full ensemble. The sampling error correction strongly reduced both random and systematic errors for all evaluated variables, ensemble sizes, and lead times.

Free access
Matthias Schindler
,
Martin Weissmann
,
Andreas Schäfler
, and
Gabor Radnoti

Abstract

Dropsonde observations from three research aircraft in the North Atlantic region, as well as several hundred additionally launched radiosondes over Canada and Europe, were collected during the international North Atlantic Waveguide and Downstream Impact Experiment (NAWDEX) in autumn 2016. In addition, over 1000 dropsondes were deployed during NOAA’s Sensing Hazards with Operational Unmanned Technology (SHOUT) and Reconnaissance missions in the west Atlantic basin, supplementing the conventional observing network for several intensive observation periods. This unique dataset was assimilated within the framework of cycled data denial experiments for a 1-month period performed with the global model of the ECMWF. Results show a slightly reduced mean forecast error (1%–3%) over the northern Atlantic and Europe by assimilating these additional observations, with the most prominent error reductions being linked to Tropical Storm Karl, Cyclones Matthew and Nicole, and their subsequent interaction with the midlatitude waveguide. The evaluation of Forecast Sensitivity to Observation Impact (FSOI) indicates that the largest impact is due to dropsondes near tropical storms and cyclones, followed by dropsondes over the northern Atlantic and additional Canadian radiosondes. Additional radiosondes over Europe showed a comparatively small beneficial impact.

Free access