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Roger Edwards
and
Richard L. Thompson

Abstract

On the local afternoon of 29 May 2012, a long-lived, right-moving (RM) supercell formed over northwestern Oklahoma and turned roughly southeastward. For >3 h, as it moved toward the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, metro area, this supercell remained nontornadic and visually high-based, producing a nearly tornadic gustnado and a swath of significantly severe, sometimes giant hail up to 5 in. (12.7 cm) in diameter. Meanwhile, a left-moving (LM) supercell formed over southwestern Oklahoma about 100 mi (161 km) south-southwest of the RM storm, and moved northeastward, with a rear-flank gust front that became well defined on radar imagery as the LM storm approached southern and central parts of the metro. The authors, who had been observing the RM supercell in the field since genesis, surmised its potential future interaction with the LM storm’s trailing gust front about 1 h beforehand. We repositioned to near the gust front’s extrapolated collision point with the RM mesocyclone, in anticipation of maximized tornado potential, then witnessed a small tornado from the RM mesocyclone immediately following its interception of the boundary. Synchronized radar and photographic images of this remarkable sequence are presented and discussed in context of more recent findings on tornadic supercell–boundary interactions, with implications for operational utility.

Significance Statement

Supercells—well-organized, rotating thunderstorms mainly found in midlatitudes—commonly produce the largest hail, along with damaging gusts and most tornadoes. In radar imagery and photographs, we show the characteristics and merger of two supercell types: left-moving and right-moving, with respect to winds aloft. As the left-moving storm’s trailing gust front interacted with the right-mover’s mesocyclone, the latter strengthened quickly, soon producing a tornado. Observed evolution of these storms supports idealized numerical and conceptual models for supercell behavior and interactions with storm-scale boundaries, and may be useful in short-fused tornado forecast and warning operations.

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Kelsey C. Britt
,
Patrick S. Skinner
,
Pamela L. Heinselman
,
Corey K. Potvin
,
Montgomery L. Flora
,
Brian Matilla
,
Kent H. Knopfmeier
, and
Anthony E. Reinhart

Abstract

Quasi-linear convective systems (QLCSs) can produce multiple hazards (e.g., straight-line winds, flash flooding, and mesovortex tornadoes) that pose a significant threat to life and property, and are often difficult to accurately forecast. The NSSL Warn-on-Forecast System (WoFS) is a convection-allowing ensemble system developed to provide short-term, probabilistic forecasting guidance for severe convective events. Examination of WoFS’s capability to predict QLCSs has yet to be systematically assessed across a large number of cases for 0–6-h forecast times. In this study, the quality of WoFS QLCS forecasts for 50 QLCS days occurring between 2017 and 2020 is evaluated using object-based verification techniques. First, a storm mode identification and classification algorithm is tuned to identify high-reflectivity, linear convective structures. The algorithm is used to identify convective line objects in WoFS forecasts and Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor system (MRMS) gridded observations. WoFS QLCS objects are matched with MRMS observed objects to generate bulk verification statistics. Results suggest WoFS’s QLCS forecasts are skillful with the 3- and 6-h forecasts having similar probability of detection and false alarm ratio values near 0.59 and 0.34, respectively. The WoFS objects are larger, more intense, and less eccentric than those in MRMS. A novel centerline analysis is performed to evaluate orientation, length, and tortuosity (i.e., curvature) differences, and spatial displacements between observed and predicted convective lines. While no systematic propagation biases are found, WoFS typically has centerlines that are more tortuous and displaced to the northwest of MRMS centerlines, suggesting WoFS may be overforecasting the intensity of the QLCS’s rear-inflow jet and northern bookend vortex.

Significance Statement

Quasi-linear convective systems (QLCSs), also known as squall lines, can be very destructive to life and property as they produce multiple hazards such as hail, severe straight-line winds, flash flooding, and tornadoes that typically form quickly and may be difficult to observe on radar. These storms can occur year-round and have the propensity to develop overnight or into the early morning hours, potentially catching the public off-guard. An ensemble prediction system called the Warn-on-Forecast System (WoFS), created by the National Severe Storms Laboratory, has shown promise in accurately forecasting a variety of severe weather events. This research evaluates the quality of the WoFS’s QLCS forecasts. Results show WoFS can accurately predict these systems for forecast times out to 6 h.

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Sarah M. Griffin
,
Jason A. Otkin
, and
William E. Lewis

Abstract

In this study, we evaluate the ability of the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) model to forecast cloud characteristics through comparison of observed and simulated satellite brightness temperatures (BTs) and radar reflectivity during different weather phenomena in December 2021: the Mayfield, Kentucky, tornado on 11 December, a heavy snow event in Minnesota from 10 to 11 December, and the Midwest derecho on 15 December. This is done to illustrate the importance of examining model accuracy across a range of weather phenomena. Observation and forecast objects were created using the Method for Object-Based Diagnostic Evaluation (MODE). HRRR accurately depicted the spatial displacements between observation cloud (defined using BTs) and radar reflectivity objects, namely, the centers of cloud objects are to the east of the radar objects for the tornado and derecho events, and generally west of the radar objects for the snow event. However, HRRR had higher (less intense) simulated BTs and higher (more intense) radar reflectivity than the observations for the tornado event. Simulated radar reflectivity is higher and BTs are lower than the observations during the middle of the snow event. Also, simulated radar reflectivity is higher and BTs are lower than the observations during the derecho event. Of the three weather events, the HRRR forecasts are most accurate for the snow event, based on the object-based threat score, followed by the derecho and tornado events. The tornado event has lower accuracy because matches between paired simulated and observation objects are worse than for the snow event, with less similarity in size forecast objects and greater distance between paired object centers.

Significance Statement

The purpose of this study is to assess the accuracy of forecast cloud and radar objects, defined using simulated satellite brightness temperatures and radar reflectivity, from the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) model. This assessment was conducted for a tornado, snow, and derecho event from December 2021. Results from these three events indicate that the HRRR model accurately represents the observed displacement between the center of cloud and radar objects for the tornado and derecho events, and is the most accurate overall for the snow event.

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Pamela L. Heinselman
,
Patrick C. Burke
,
Louis J. Wicker
,
Adam J. Clark
,
John S. Kain
,
Jidong Gao
,
Nusrat Yussouf
,
Thomas A. Jones
,
Patrick S. Skinner
,
Corey K. Potvin
,
Katie A. Wilson
,
Burkely T. Gallo
,
Montgomery L. Flora
,
Joshua Martin
,
Gerry Creager
,
Kent H. Knopfmeier
,
Yunheng Wang
,
Brian C. Matilla
,
David C. Dowell
,
Edward R. Mansell
,
Brett Roberts
,
Kimberly A. Hoogewind
,
Derek R. Stratman
,
Jorge Guerra
,
Anthony E. Reinhart
,
Christopher A. Kerr
, and
William Miller

Abstract

In 2009, advancements in NWP and computing power inspired a vision to advance hazardous weather warnings from a warn-on-detection to a warn-on-forecast paradigm. This vision would require not only the prediction of individual thunderstorms and their attributes but the likelihood of their occurrence in time and space. During the last decade, the warn-on-forecast research team at the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory met this challenge through the research and development of 1) an ensemble of high-resolution convection-allowing models; 2) ensemble- and variational-based assimilation of weather radar, satellite, and conventional observations; and 3) unique postprocessing and verification techniques, culminating in the experimental Warn-on-Forecast System (WoFS). Since 2017, we have directly engaged users in the testing, evaluation, and visualization of this system to ensure that WoFS guidance is usable and useful to operational forecasters at NOAA national centers and local offices responsible for forecasting severe weather, tornadoes, and flash floods across the watch-to-warning continuum. Although an experimental WoFS is now a reality, we close by discussing many of the exciting opportunities remaining, including folding this system into the Unified Forecast System, transitioning WoFS into NWS operations, and pursuing next-decade science goals for further advancing storm-scale prediction.

Significance Statement

The purpose of this research is to develop an experimental prediction system that forecasts the probability for severe weather hazards associated with individual thunderstorms up to 6 h in advance. This capability is important because some people and organizations, like those living in mobile homes, caring for patients in hospitals, or managing large outdoor events, require extended lead time to protect themselves and others from potential severe weather hazards. Our results demonstrate a prediction system that enables forecasters, for the first time, to message probabilistic hazard information associated with individual severe storms between the watch-to-warning time frame within the United States.

Open access
Ji-Hoon Ha
and
Hyesook Lee

Abstract

The optical flow technique has advantages in motion tracking and has long been employed in precipitation nowcasting to track the motion of precipitation fields using ground radar datasets. However, the performance and forecast time scale of models based on optical flow are limited. Here, we present the results of the application of the deep learning method to optical flow estimation to extend its forecast time scale and enhance the performance of nowcasting. It is shown that a deep learning model can better capture both multispatial and multitemporal motions of precipitation events compared with traditional optical flow estimation methods. The model comprises two components: 1) a regression process based on multiple optical flow algorithms, which more accurately captures multispatial features compared with a single optical flow algorithm; and 2) a U-Net-based network that trains multitemporal features of precipitation movement. We evaluated the model performance with cases of precipitation in South Korea. In particular, the regression process minimizes errors by combining multiple optical flow algorithms with a gradient descent method and outperforms other models using only a single optical flow algorithm up to a 3-h lead time. Additionally, the U-Net plays a crucial role in capturing nonlinear motion that cannot be captured by a simple advection model through traditional optical flow estimation. Consequently, we suggest that the proposed optical flow estimation method with deep learning could play a significant role in improving the performance of current operational nowcasting models, which are based on traditional optical flow methods.

Significance Statement

The purpose of this study is to improve the accuracy of short-term rainfall prediction based on optical flow methods that have been employed for operational precipitation nowcasting. By utilizing open-source libraries, such as OpenCV, and commonly applied machine learning techniques, such as multiple linear regression and U-Net networks, we propose an accessible model for enhancing prediction accuracy. We expect that the improvement in prediction accuracy will significantly improve the practical application of operational precipitation nowcasting.

Open access
Alex Alvin Cheung
,
Christopher J. Slocum
,
John A. Knaff
, and
Muhammad Naufal Razin

Abstract

Intense tropical cyclones can form secondary eyewalls (SEs) that contract toward the storm center and eventually replace the inner eyewall, a process known as an eyewall replacement cycle (ERC). However, SE formation does not guarantee an eventual ERC, and often, SEs follow differing evolutionary pathways. This study documents SE evolution and progressions observed in numerous tropical cyclones, and results in two new datasets using passive microwave imagery: a global subjectively labeled dataset of SEs and eyes and their uncertainties from 72 storms between 2016 and 2019, and a dataset of 87 SE progressions that highlights the broad convective organization preceding and following an SE formation. The results show that two primary SE pathways exist: “No Replacement,” known as “Path 1,” and “Replacement,” known as the “Classic Path.” Most interestingly, 53% of the most certain SE formations result in an eyewall replacement. The Classic Path is associated with stronger column average meridional wind, a faster poleward component of storm motion, more intense storms, weaker vertical wind shear, greater relative humidity, a larger storm wind field, and stronger cold-air advection. This study highlights that a greater number of potential SE pathways exist than previously thought. The results of this study detail several observational features of SE evolution that raise questions about the physical processes that drive SE formations. Most important, environmental conditions and storm metrics identified here provide guidance for predictors in artificial intelligence applications for future tropical cyclone SE detection algorithms.

Open access
Christopher Tracy
and
John R. Mecikalski

Abstract

Throughout the summer months in the Southeast United States (SEUS), the initiation of isolated convection (CI) can occur abundantly during the daytime with weak synoptic support (e.g., weak wind shear). Centered around this premise, a dual-summer, limited-area case study of CI events concerning both geographical and meteorological features was conducted. The goal of this study was to help explain SEUS summertime CI in weak synoptic environments, which can enhance CI predictability. Results show that spatial CI nonrandomness event patterns arise, with greater CI event density appearing over high elevation by midday. Later in the day, overall CI event counts subside with other mechanisms/factors emerging (e.g., urban heat island). Antecedent rainfall, instability, and moisture features are also higher on average where CI occurred. In a random forest feature importance analysis, elevation was the most important variable in dictating CI events in the early to midafternoon while antecedent rainfall and wind direction consistently rank highest in permutation importance. The results cumulatively allude to, albeit in a muted, nonsignificant statistical signal, and a degree of spatial clustering of CI event occurrences cross the study domain as a function of daytime heating and contributions of features to enhancing CI probabilities (e.g., differential heating and mesoscale thermal circulations).

Significance Statement

Widespread isolated thunderstorms in the Southeast United States summer season with weak synoptic support have been commonly observed. With forecasting these remaining a challenge, a dual-summer intercomparison of geographical/meteorological features with convective initiation events was conducted. Radar data with a minimum threshold for convective initiation detection (35 dBZ) were used. Spatial nonrandomness was discovered with greater event density appearing over higher elevation by midday. Features such as prior rainfall and atmospheric instability/moisture were higher on average where initiation occurred. In a feature importance analysis, elevation ranked higher in the early to midafternoon hours while antecedent rainfall and wind direction ranked highest overall in permutation importance. These results allude to the contribution of localized phenomena to the nonrandomness (e.g., mesoscale circulations).

Restricted access
Xia Sun
,
Dominikus Heinzeller
,
Ligia Bernardet
,
Linlin Pan
,
Weiwei Li
,
David Turner
, and
John Brown

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.

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Free access
C. R. Sampson
,
J. A. Knaff
,
C. J. Slocum
,
M. J. Onderlinde
,
A. Brammer
,
M. Frost
, and
B. Strahl

Abstract

Intensity consensus forecasts can provide skillful overall guidance for intensity forecasting at the Joint Typhoon Warning Center as they provide among the lowest mean absolute errors; however, these forecasts are far less useful for periods of rapid intensification (RI) as guidance provided is generally low biased. One way to address this issue is to construct a consensus that also includes deterministic RI forecast guidance in order to increase intensification rates during RI. While this approach increases skill and eliminates some bias, consensus forecasts from this approach generally remain low biased during RI events. Another approach is to construct a consensus forecast using an equally weighted average of deterministic RI forecasts. This yields a forecast that is generally among the top performing RI guidance, but suffers from false alarms and a high bias due to those false alarms. Neither approach described here is a prescription for forecast success, but both have qualities that merit consideration for operational centers tasked with the difficult task of RI prediction.

Significance Statement

Forecasters at the Joint Typhoon Warning Center are required to make intensity forecasts every watch. Skillful guidance is available to make these forecasts, yielding lower mean absolute errors and biases; however, errors are higher for tropical cyclones either undergoing rapid intensification or with the potential to do so. This effort is an attempt to mitigate higher errors associated with rapid intensification forecasts using existing guidance and consensus techniques. Resultant rapid intensification guidance can be used to reduce operational forecast intensity forecast errors and provide advanced warning to customers for these difficult cases.

Open access