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Jeffrey D. Massey, W. James Steenburgh, Jason C. Knievel, and William Y. Y. Cheng

Abstract

Operational Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model forecasts run over Dugway Proving Ground (DPG) in northwest Utah, produced by the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command Four-Dimensional Weather System (4DWX), underpredict the amplitude of the diurnal temperature cycle during September and October. Mean afternoon [2000 UTC (1300 LST)] and early morning [1100 UTC (0400 LST)] 2-m temperature bias errors evaluated against 195 surface stations using 6- and 12-h forecasts are –1.37° and 1.66°C, respectively. Bias errors relative to soundings and 4DWX-DPG analyses illustrate that the afternoon cold bias extends from the surface to above the top of the planetary boundary layer, whereas the early morning warm bias develops in the lowest model levels and is confined to valleys and basins. These biases are largest during mostly clear conditions and are caused primarily by a regional overestimation of near-surface soil moisture in operational land surface analyses, which do not currently assimilate in situ soil moisture observations. Bias correction of these soil moisture analyses using data from 42 North American Soil Moisture Database stations throughout the Intermountain West reduces both the afternoon and early morning bias errors and improves forecasts of upper-level temperature and stability. These results illustrate that the assimilation of in situ and remotely sensed soil moisture observations, including those from the recently launched NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission, have the potential to greatly improve land surface analyses and near-surface temperature forecasts over arid regions.

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Sean M. Wile, Joshua P. Hacker, and Kenneth H. Chilcoat

Abstract

Expansion in the availability of relocatable near-surface atmospheric observing sensors introduces the question of where placement maximizes gain in forecast accuracy. As one possible method of addressing observation placement, the performance of ensemble sensitivity analysis (ESA) is examined for high-resolution (Δx = 4 km) predictions in complex terrain and during weak flow. ESA can be inaccurate when the underlying assumptions of linear dynamics (and Gaussian statistics) are violated, or when the sensitivity cannot be robustly sampled. A case study of a fog event at Salt Lake City International Airport (KSLC) in Utah provides a useful basis for examining these issues, with the additional influence of complex terrain. A realistic upper-air observing network is used in perfect-model ensemble data assimilation experiments, providing the statistics for ESA. Results show that water vapor mixing ratios over KSLC are sensitive to potential temperature on the first model layer tens of kilometers away, 6 h prior to verification and prior to the onset of fog. Potential temperatures indicate inversion strength in the Salt Lake basin; the ESA predicts southerly flow and strengthened inversions will increase water vapor over KSLC. Linearity tests show that the nonlinear response is about twice the expected response. Experiments with smaller ensembles show that qualitatively similar conclusions about the sensitivity pattern can be reached with ensembles as small as 48 members, but smaller ensembles do not produce accurate sensitivity estimates. Taken together, the results motivate a closer look at the fundamental characteristics of ESA when dynamics (and therefore correlations) are weak.

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Hailing Zhang, Zhaoxia Pu, and Xuebo Zhang

Abstract

The performance of an advanced research version of the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) in predicting near-surface atmospheric temperature and wind conditions under various terrain and weather regimes is examined. Verification of 2-m temperature and 10-m wind speed and direction against surface Mesonet observations is conducted. Three individual events under strong synoptic forcings (i.e., a frontal system, a low-level jet, and a persistent inversion) are first evaluated. It is found that the WRF model is able to reproduce these weather phenomena reasonably well. Forecasts of near-surface variables in flat terrain generally agree well with observations, but errors also occur, depending on the predictability of the lower-atmospheric boundary layer. In complex terrain, forecasts not only suffer from the model's inability to reproduce accurate atmospheric conditions in the lower atmosphere but also struggle with representative issues due to mismatches between the model and the actual terrain. In addition, surface forecasts at finer resolutions do not always outperform those at coarser resolutions. Increasing the vertical resolution may not help predict the near-surface variables, although it does improve the forecasts of the structure of mesoscale weather phenomena. A statistical analysis is also performed for 120 forecasts during a 1-month period to further investigate forecast error characteristics in complex terrain. Results illustrate that forecast errors in near-surface variables depend strongly on the diurnal variation in surface conditions, especially when synoptic forcing is weak. Under strong synoptic forcing, the diurnal patterns in the errors break down, while the flow-dependent errors are clearly shown.

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