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Jonathan E. Thielen and William A. Gallus Jr.

Abstract

Nocturnal mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) are important phenomena because of their contributions to warm-season precipitation and association with severe hazards. Past studies have shown that their morphology remains poorly forecast in current convection-allowing models operating at 3–4-km horizontal grid spacing. A total of 10 MCS cases occurring in weakly forced environments were simulated using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model at 3- and 1-km horizontal grid spacings to investigate the impact of increased resolution on forecasts of convective morphology and its evolution. These simulations were conducted using four microphysics schemes to account for additional sensitivities to the microphysical parameterization. The observed and corresponding simulated systems were manually classified into detailed cellular and linear modes, and the overall morphology depiction and the forecast accuracy of each model configuration were evaluated. In agreement with past studies, WRF was found to underpredict the occurrence of linear modes and overpredict cellular modes at 3-km horizontal grid spacing with all microphysics schemes tested. When grid spacing was reduced to 1 km, the proportion of linear systems increased. However, the increase was insufficient to match observations throughout the evolution of the systems, and the accuracy scores showed no statistically significant improvement. This suggests that the additional linear modes may have occurred in the wrong subtypes, wrong systems, and/or at the wrong times. Accuracy scores were also shown to decrease with forecast length, with the primary decrease in score generally occurring during upscale growth in the early nocturnal period.

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Sean Stelten and William A. Gallus Jr.

Abstract

The prediction of convective initiation remains a challenge to forecasters in the Great Plains, especially for elevated events at night. This study examines a subset of 287 likely elevated nocturnal convective initiation events that occurred with little or no direct influence from surface boundaries or preexisting convection over a 4-month period of May–August during the summer of 2015. Events were first classified into one of four types based on apparent formation mechanisms and location relative to any low-level jet. A climatology of each of the four types was performed focusing on general spatial tendencies over a large Great Plains domain and initiation timing trends. Simulations from five convection-allowing models available during the Plains Elevated Convection At Night (PECAN) field campaign, along with four versions of a 4-km Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model, were used to examine the predictability of these types of convective initiation. A dual-peak pattern for initiation timing was revealed, with one peak near 0400 UTC and another around 0700 UTC. The times and prominence of each peak shifted depending on the region analyzed. Positive thermal advection by the geostrophic wind was present in the majority of events for three types but not for the type occurring without a low-level jet. Models were more deficient with location than timing for the five PECAN models, with the four 4-km WRF Models showing similar location errors and problems with initiating convection at a lower altitude than observed.

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Aaron Johnson, Xuguang Wang, and Samuel Degelia

Abstract

Multiscale ensemble-based data assimilation and forecasts were performed in real time during the Plains Elevated Convection At Night (PECAN) field experiment. A 20-member ensemble of forecasts at 4-km grid spacing was initialized daily at both 1300 and 1900 UTC, together with a deterministic forecast at 1-km grid spacing initialized at 1300 UTC. The configuration of the GSI-based data assimilation and forecast system was guided by results presented in Part I of this two-part study. The present paper describes the implementation of the real-time system and the extensive forecast products that were generated to support the unique interests of PECAN researchers. Subjective and objective verification of the real-time forecasts from 1 June through 15 July 2015 is conducted, with an emphasis on nocturnal mesoscale convective systems (MCSs), nocturnal convective initiation (CI), nocturnal low-level jets (LLJs), and bores on the nocturnal stable layer. Verification of nocturnal precipitation during overnight hours, a proxy for MCSs, shows both greater skill and spread for the 1300 UTC forecasts than the 1900 UTC forecasts. Verification against observed soundings reveals that the forecast LLJs systematically peak, veer, and dissipate several hours before the observations. Comparisons with bores that passed over an Atmospheric Emitted Radiance Interferometer reveal an ability to predict borelike features that is greatly improved at 1-km, compared with 4-km, grid spacing. Objective verification of forecast CI timing reveals strong sensitivity to the PBL scheme but an overall unbiased ensemble.

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Aaron Johnson and Xuguang Wang

Abstract

A real-time GSI-based and ensemble-based data assimilation (DA) and forecast system was implemented at the University of Oklahoma during the 2015 Plains Elevated Convection at Night (PECAN) experiment. Extensive experiments on the configuration of the cycled DA and on both the DA and forecast physics ensembles were conducted using retrospective cases to optimize the system design for nocturnal convection. The impacts of radar DA between 1200 and 1300 UTC, as well as the frequency and number of DA cycles and the DA physics configuration, extend through the following night. Ten-minute cycling of radar DA leads to more skillful forecasts than both more and less frequent cycling. The Thompson microphysics scheme for DA better analyzes the effects of morning convection on environmental moisture than WSM6, which improves the convection forecast the following night. A multi-PBL configuration during DA leads to less skillful short-term forecasts than even a relatively poorly performing single-PBL scheme. Deterministic and ensemble forecast physics configurations are also evaluated. Thompson microphysics and the Mellor–Yamada–Nakanishi–Niino (MYNN) PBL provide the most skillful nocturnal precipitation forecasts. A well thought out multiphysics configuration is shown to provide advantages over evenly distributing three of the best-performing microphysics and PBL schemes or a fixed MYNN/Thompson ensemble. This is shown using objective and subjective verification of precipitation and nonprecipitation variables, including convective initiation. Predictions of the low-level jet are sensitive to the PBL scheme, with the best scheme being variable and time dependent. These results guided the implementation and verification of a real-time ensemble DA and forecast system for PECAN.

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