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Makenzie J. Krocak and Harold E. Brooks

Abstract

While many studies have looked at the quality of forecast products, few have attempted to understand the relationship between them. We begin to consider whether or not such an influence exists by analyzing storm-based tornado warning product metrics with respect to whether they occurred within a severe weather watch and, if so, what type of watch they occurred within. The probability of detection, false alarm ratio, and lead time all show a general improvement with increasing watch severity. In fact, the probability of detection increased more as a function of watch-type severity than the change in probability of detection during the time period of analysis. False alarm ratio decreased as watch type increased in severity, but with a much smaller magnitude than the difference in probability of detection. Lead time also improved with an increase in watch-type severity. Warnings outside of any watch had a mean lead time of 5.5 min, while those inside of a particularly dangerous situation tornado watch had a mean lead time of 15.1 min. These results indicate that the existence and type of severe weather watch may have an influence on the quality of tornado warnings. However, it is impossible to separate the influence of weather watches from possible differences in warning strategy or differences in environmental characteristics that make it more or less challenging to warn for tornadoes. Future studies should attempt to disentangle these numerous influences to assess how much influence intermediate products have on downstream products.

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Clifford F. Mass, David Ovens, Robert Conrick, and John Saltenberger

Abstract

A series of major fires spread across eastern Washington and western Oregon starting on 7 September 2020, driven by strong easterly and northeasterly winds gusting to ~70 kt (1 kt ≈ 0.51 m s−1) at exposed locations. This event was associated with a high-amplitude upper-level ridge over the eastern Pacific and a mobile trough that moved southward on its eastern flank. The synoptic environment during the event was highly unusual, with the easterly 925-hPa wind speeds at Salem, Oregon, being unprecedented for the August–September period. The September 2020 wildfires produced dense smoke that initially moved westward over the Willamette Valley and eventually covered the region. As a result, air quality rapidly degraded to hazardous levels, representing the worst air quality period of recent decades. High-resolution numerical simulations using the WRF Model indicated the importance of a high-amplitude mountain wave in producing strong easterly winds over western Oregon. The dead fuel moisture levels over eastern Washington before the fires were typical for that time of the year. Along the western slopes of the Oregon Cascades, where the fuels largely comprise a dense conifer forest with understory vegetation, fire weather indices were lower (moister) than normal during the early part of the summer, but transitioned to above-normal (drier) values during August, with a spike to record values in early September coincident with the strong easterly winds. Forecast guidance was highly accurate for both the Washington and Oregon wildfire events. Analyses of climatological data and fuel indices did not suggest that unusual preexisting climatic conditions were major drivers of the September 2020 Northwest wildfires.

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Edward J. Strobach

Abstract

Parameterizing boundary layer turbulence is a critical component of numerical weather prediction and the representation of turbulent mixing of momentum, heat, and other tracers. The components that make up a boundary layer scheme can vary considerably, with each scheme having a combination of processes that are physically represented along with tuning parameters that optimize performance. Isolating a component of a PBL scheme to examine its impact is essential for understanding the evolution of boundary layer profiles and their impact on the mean structure. In this study we conduct three experiments with the scale-aware TKE eddy-diffusivity mass-flux (sa-TKE-EDMF) scheme: 1) releasing the upper limit constraints placed on mixing lengths, 2) incrementally adjusting the tuning coefficient related to wind shear in the modified Bougeault and Lacarrere (BouLac) mixing length formulation, and 3) replacing the current mixing length formulations with those used in the MYNN scheme. A diagnostic approach is adopted to characterize the bulk representation of turbulence within the residual layer and boundary layer in order to understand the importance of different terms in the TKE budget as well as to assess how the balance of terms changes between mixing length formulations. Although our study does not seek to determine the best formulation, it was found that strong imbalances led to considerably different profile structures both in terms of the resolved and subgrid fields. Experiments where this balance was preserved showed a minor impact on the mean structure regardless of the turbulence generated. Overall, it was found that changes to mixing length formulations and/or constraints had stronger impacts during the day while remaining partially insensitive during the evening.

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Franziska Hellmuth, Bjørg Jenny Kokkvoll Engdahl, Trude Storelvmo, Robert O. David, and Steven J. Cooper

Abstract

In the winter, orographic precipitation falls as snow in the mid- to high latitudes where it causes avalanches, affects local infrastructure, or leads to flooding during the spring thaw. We present a technique to validate operational numerical weather prediction model simulations in complex terrain. The presented verification technique uses a combined retrieval approach to obtain surface snowfall accumulation and vertical profiles of snow water at the Haukeliseter test site, Norway. Both surface observations and vertical profiles of snow are used to validate model simulations from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute’s operational forecast system and two simulations with adjusted cloud microphysics. Retrieved surface snowfall is validated against measurements conducted with a double-fence automated reference gauge (DFAR). In comparison, the optimal estimation snowfall retrieval produces +10.9% more surface snowfall than the DFAR. The predicted surface snowfall from the operational forecast model and two additional simulations with microphysical adjustments (CTRL and ICE-T) are overestimated at the surface with +41.0%, +43.8%, and +59.2%, respectively. Simultaneously, the CTRL and ICE-T simulations underestimate the mean snow water path by −1071.4% and −523.7%, respectively. The study shows that we would reach false conclusions only using surface accumulation or vertical snow water content profiles. These results highlight the need to combine ground-based in situ and vertically profiling remote sensing instruments to identify biases in numerical weather prediction.

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Michelle L. L’Heureux, Michael K. Tippett, and Emily J. Becker

Abstract

The relation between the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and California precipitation has been studied extensively and plays a prominent role in seasonal forecasting. However, a wide range of precipitation outcomes on seasonal time scales are possible, even during extreme ENSO states. Here, we investigate prediction skill and its origins on subseasonal time scales. Model predictions of California precipitation are examined using Subseasonal Experiment (SubX) reforecasts for the period 1999–2016, focusing on those from the Flow-Following Icosahedral Model (FIM). Two potential sources of subseasonal predictability are examined: the tropical Pacific Ocean and upper-level zonal winds near California. In both observations and forecasts, the Niño-3.4 index exhibits a weak and insignificant relationship with daily to monthly averages of California precipitation. Likewise, model tropical sea surface temperature and outgoing longwave radiation show only minimal relations with California precipitation forecasts, providing no evidence that flavors of El Niño or tropical modes substantially contribute to the success or failure of subseasonal forecasts. On the other hand, an index for upper-level zonal winds is strongly correlated with precipitation in observations and forecasts, across averaging windows and lead times. The wind index is related to ENSO, but the correlation between the wind index and precipitation remains even after accounting for ENSO phase. Intriguingly, the Niño-3.4 index and California precipitation show a slight but robust negative statistical relation after accounting for the wind index.

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Yang Lyu, Xiefei Zhi, Shoupeng Zhu, Yi Fan, and Mengting Pan

Abstract

In this study, two pattern projection methods, i.e., the stepwise pattern projection method (SPPM) and the newly proposed neighborhood pattern projection method (NPPM), are investigated to improve forecast skills of daily maximum and minimum temperatures (Tmax and Tmin) over East Asia with lead times of 1–7 days. Meanwhile, the decaying averaging method (DAM) is conducted in parallel for comparison. These postprocessing methods are found to effectively calibrate the temperature forecasts on the basis of the raw ECMWF output. Generally, the SPPM is slightly inferior to the DAM, while its insufficiency decreases with increasing lead times. The NPPM shows manifest superiority for all lead times, with the mean absolute errors of Tmax and Tmin decreased by ~0.7° and ~0.9°C, respectively. Advantages of the two pattern projection methods are both mainly concentrated on the high-altitude areas such as the Tibetan Plateau, where the raw ECMWF forecasts show the most conspicuous biases. In addition, aiming at further assessments of these methods on extreme event forecasts, two case experiments are carried out toward a heat wave and a cold surge, respectively. The NPPM is retained as the optimal with the highest forecast skills, which reduces most of the biases to <2°C for both Tmax and Tmin over all the lead days. In general, the statistical pattern projection methods are capable of effectively eliminating spatial biases in forecasts of surface air temperature. Compared with the initial SPPM, the NPPM not only produces more powerful forecast calibrations, but also provides more pragmatic calculations and greater potential economic benefits in practical applications.

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Christopher J. Nowotarski, Justin Spotts, Roger Edwards, Scott Overpeck, and Gary R. Woodall

Abstract

Tropical cyclone tornadoes pose a unique challenge to warning forecasters given their often marginal environments and radar attributes. In late August 2017 Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast and produced 52 tornadoes over a record-breaking seven consecutive days. To improve warning efforts, this case study of Harvey’s tornadoes includes an event overview as well as a comparison of near-cell environments and radar attributes between tornadic and nontornadic warned cells. Our results suggest that significant differences existed in both the near-cell environments and radar attributes, particularly rotational velocity, between tornadic cells and false alarms. For many environmental variables and radar attributes, differences were enhanced when only tornadoes associated with a tornado debris signature were considered. Our results highlight the potential of improving warning skill further and reducing false alarms by increasing rotational velocity warning thresholds, refining the use of near-storm environment information, and focusing warning efforts on cells likely to produce the most impactful tornadoes.

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JUXIANG PENG, YUANFU XIE, and ZHAOPING KANG

Abstract

This paper reports the assimilation of cloud optical depth datasets into a variational data assimilation system to improve cloud ice, cloud water, rain, snow, and graupel analysis in extreme weather events for improving forecasts. A cloud optical depth forward operator was developed and implemented in the Space and Time Multiscale Analysis System (STMAS), a multiscale three-dimensional variational analysis system. Using this improved analysis system, the NOAA GOES-15 DCOMP (Daytime Cloud Optical and Microphysical Properties) cloud optical depth products were assimilated to improve the microphysical states. For an eight-day period of extreme weather events in September 2013 in Colorado, the United States, the impact of the cloud optical depth assimilation on the analysis results and forecasts was evaluated. The DCOMP products improved the cloud ice and cloud water predictions significantly in convective and lower levels. The DCOMP products also reduced errors in temperature and relative humidity data at the top (250–150 hPa) and bottom (850–700 hPa) layers. With the cloud ice improvement at higher layers, the DCOMP products provided better forecasts of cloud liquid at low layers (900–700 hPa), temperature and wind at all layers, and relative humidity at middle and bottom layers. Furthermore, for this extreme weather event, both equitable threat score (ETS) and bias were improved throughout the 12 h period, with the most significant improvement observed in the first 3 h. This study will raise the expectation of cloud optical depth product assimilation in operational applications.

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Craig S. Schwartz, Jonathan Poterjoy, Jacob R. Carley, David C. Dowell, Glen S. Romine, and Kayo Ide

Abstract

Several limited-area 80-member ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF) data assimilation systems with 15-km horizontal grid spacing were run over a computational domain spanning the conterminous United States (CONUS) for a 4-week period. One EnKF employed continuous cycling, where the prior ensemble was always the 1-h forecast initialized from the previous cycle’s analysis. In contrast, the other EnKFs used a partial cycling procedure, where limited-area states were discarded after 12 or 18 h of self-contained hourly cycles and re-initialized the next day from global model fields. “Blended” states were also constructed by combining large scales from global ensemble initial conditions (ICs) with small scales from limited-area continuously cycling EnKF analyses using a low-pass filter. Both the blended states and EnKF analysis ensembles initialized 36-h, 10-member ensemble forecasts with 3-km horizontal grid spacing. Continuously cycling EnKF analyses initialized ~1–18-h precipitation forecasts that were comparable to or somewhat better than those with partial cycling EnKF ICs. Conversely, ~18–36-h forecasts with partial cycling EnKF ICs were comparable to or better than those with unblended continuously cycling EnKF ICs. However, blended ICs yielded ~18–36-h forecasts that were statistically indistinguishable from those with partial cycling ICs. ICs that more closely resembled global analysis spectral characteristics at wavelengths > 200 km, like partial cycling and blended ICs, were associated with relatively good ~18–36-h forecasts. Ultimately, findings suggest that EnKFs employing a combination of continuous cycling and blending can potentially replace the partial cycling assimilation systems that currently initialize operational limited-area models over the CONUS without sacrificing forecast quality.

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Robert M. Banta, Yelena L. Pichugina, Lisa S. Darby, W. Alan Brewer, Joseph B. Olson, Jaymes S. Kenyon, S. Baidar, S.G. Benjamin, H.J.S. Fernando, K.O. Lantz, J.K. Lundquist, B.J. McCarty, T. Marke, S.P. Sandberg, J. Sharp, W.J. Shaw, D.D. Turner, J.M. Wilczak, R. Worsnop, and M.T. Stoelinga

Abstract

Complex-terrain locations often have repeatable near-surface wind patterns, such as synoptic gap flows and local thermally forced flows. An example is the Columbia River Valley in east-central Oregon-Washington, a significant wind-energy-generation region and the site of the Second Wind-Forecast Improvement Project (WFIP2). Data from three Doppler lidars deployed during WFIP2 define and characterize summertime wind regimes and their large-scale contexts, and provide insight into NWP model errors by examining differences in the ability of a model [NOAA’s High-Resolution Rapid-Refresh (HRRR-version1)] to forecast wind-speed profiles for different regimes. Seven regimes were identified based on daily time series of the lidar-measured rotor-layer winds, which then suggested two broad categories. First, in three regimes the primary dynamic forcing was the large-scale pressure gradient. Second, in two regimes the dominant forcing was the diurnal heating-cooling cycle (regional sea-breeze-type dynamics), including the marine intrusion previously described, which generates strong nocturnal winds over the region. The other two included a hybrid regime and a non-conforming regime. For the large-scale pressure-gradient regimes, HRRR had wind-speed biases of ~1 m s−1 and RMSEs of 2-3 m s−1. Errors were much larger for the thermally forced regimes, owing to the premature demise of the strong nocturnal flow in HRRR. Thus, the more dominant the role of surface heating in generating the flow, the larger the errors. Major errors could result from surface heating of the atmosphere, boundary-layer responses to that heating, and associated terrain interactions. Measurement/modeling research programs should be aimed at determining which modeled processes produce the largest errors, so those processes can be improved and errors reduced.

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