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Joseph A. Grim, James O. Pinto, Thomas Blitz, Kenneth Stone, and David C. Dowell

Abstract

The severity, duration, and spatial extent of thunderstorm impacts are related to convective storm mode. This study assesses the skill of the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh Ensemble (HRRR-E) and its deterministic counterpart (HRRRv4) at predicting convective mode and storm macrophysical properties using 35 convective events observed during the 2020 warm season across the eastern United States. Seven cases were selected from each of five subjectively determined convective organization modes: tropical cyclones, mesoscale convective systems (MCSs), quasi-linear convective systems, clusters, and cellular convection. These storm events were assessed using an object-based approach to identify convective storms and determine their individual size. Averaged across all 35 cases, both the HRRR-E and HRRRv4 predicted storm areas were generally larger than observed, with this bias being a function of storm lifetime and convective mode. Both modeling systems also underpredicted the rapid increase in storm counts during the initiation period, particularly for the smaller-scale storm modes. Interestingly, performance of the HRRRv4 differed from that of the HRRR-E, with the HRRRv4 generally having a larger bias in total storm area than the HRRR-E due to HRRRv4 predicting up to 66% more storm objects than the HRRR-E. The HRRR-E accurately predicted the convective mode 65% of the time, with complete misses being very rare (<5% of the time overall). However, an evaluation of rank histograms across all 35 cases revealed that the HRRR-E tended to be underdispersive when predicting storm size for all but the MCS mode.

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Stephen Jewson, Sebastian Scher, and Gabriele Messori

Abstract

Weather forecasts, seasonal forecasts, and climate projections can help their users make good decisions. It has recently been shown that when the decisions include the question of whether to act now or wait for the next forecast, even better decisions can be made if information describing potential forecast changes is also available. In this article, we discuss another set of situations in which forecast change information can be useful, which arise when forecast users need to decide which of a series of lagged forecasts to use. Motivated by these potential applications of forecast change information, we then discuss a number of ways in which forecast change information can be presented, using ECMWF reforecasts and corresponding observations as illustration. We first show metrics that illustrate changes in forecast values, such as average sizes of changes, probabilities of changes of different sizes, and percentiles of the distribution of changes, and then show metrics that illustrate changes in forecast skill, such as increase in average skill and probabilities that later forecasts will be more accurate. We give four illustrative numerical examples in which these metrics determine which of a series of lagged forecasts to use. In conclusion, we suggest that providers of weather forecasts, seasonal forecasts, and climate projections might consider presenting forecast change information, in order to help forecast users make better decisions.

Significance Statement

In certain situations, decisions that are made using weather and climate predictions could be improved if information about possible future changes in the predictions were also made available. We discuss these situations, and present a number of ways that providers of forecasts could present such information.

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Janice L. Bytheway, Mimi Hughes, Rob Cifelli, Kelly Mahoney, and Jason M. English

Abstract

Accurate quantitative precipitation estimates (QPEs) at high spatial and temporal resolution are difficult to obtain in regions of complex terrain due to the large spatial heterogeneity of orographically enhanced precipitation, sparsity of gauges, precipitation phase variations, and terrain effects that impact the quality of remotely sensed estimates. The large uncertainty of QPE in these regions also makes the evaluation of high-resolution quantitative precipitation forecasts (QPFs) challenging, as it can be difficult to choose a reference QPE that is reliable at both high and low elevations. In this paper we demonstrate a methodology to combine information from multiple high-resolution hourly QPE products to evaluate QPFs from NOAA’s High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) model in a region of Northern California. The methodology uses the quantiles of monthly QPE distributions to determine a range of hourly precipitation that correspond to “good,” “possible,” “underestimated,” or “overestimated” QPFs. In this manuscript, we illustrate the use of the methodology to evaluate QPFs for seven atmospheric river events that occurred during the 2016–17 wet season in Northern California. Because the presence of frozen precipitation is often not captured by traditional QPE products, we evaluate QPFs both for all precipitation, and with likely frozen precipitation excluded. The methodology is shown to provide useful information to evaluate model performance while taking into account the uncertainty of available QPE at various temporal and spatial scales. The potential of the technique to evaluate changes between model versions is also shown.

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Tim Cowan, Matthew C. Wheeler, S. Sharmila, Sugata Narsey, and Catherine de Burgh-Day

Abstract

Rainfall bursts are relatively short-lived events that typically occur over consecutive days, up to a week. Northern Australian industries like sugar farming and beef are highly sensitive to burst activity, yet little is known about the multiweek prediction of bursts. This study evaluates summer (December–March) bursts over northern Australia in observations and multiweek hindcasts from the Bureau of Meteorology’s multiweek to seasonal system, the Australian Community Climate and Earth-System Simulator, Seasonal version 1 (ACCESS-S1). The main objective is to test ACCESS-S1’s skill to confidently predict tropical burst activity, defined as rainfall accumulation exceeding a threshold amount over three days, for the purpose of producing a practical, user-friendly burst forecast product. The ensemble hindcasts, made up of 11 members for the period 1990–2012, display good predictive skill out to lead week 2 in the far northern regions, despite overestimating the total number of summer burst days and the proportion of total summer rainfall from bursts. Coinciding with a predicted strong Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO), the skill in burst event prediction can be extended out to four weeks over the far northern coast in December; however, this improvement is not apparent in other months or over the far northeast, which shows generally better forecast skill with a predicted weak MJO. The ability of ACCESS-S1 to skillfully forecast bursts out to 2–3 weeks suggests the bureau’s recent prototype development of a burst potential forecast product would be of great interest to northern Australia’s livestock and crop producers, who rely on accurate multiweek rainfall forecasts for managing business decisions.

Open access
Ha Pham-Thanh, Tan Phan-Van, Roderick van der Linden, and Andreas H. Fink

Abstract

The onset of the rainy season is an important date for the mostly rain-fed agricultural practices in Vietnam. Subseasonal to seasonal (S2S) ensemble hindcasts from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) are used to evaluate the predictability of the rainy season onset dates (RSODs) over five climatic subregions of Vietnam. The results show that the ECMWF model reproduces well the observed interannual variability of RSODs, with a high correlation ranging from 0.60 to 0.99 over all subregions at all lead times (up to 40 days) using five different RSOD definitions. For increasing lead times, forecasted RSODs tend to be earlier than the observed ones. Positive skill score values for almost all cases examined in all subregions indicate that the model outperforms the observed climatology in predicting the RSOD at subseasonal lead times (∼28–35 days). However, the model is overall more skillful at shorter lead times. The choice of the RSOD criterion should be considered because it can significantly influence the model performance. The result of analyzing the highest skill score for each subregion at each lead time shows that criteria with higher 5-day rainfall thresholds tend to be more suitable for the forecasts at long lead times. However, the values of mean absolute error are approximately the same as the absolute values of the mean error, indicating that the prediction could be improved by a simple bias correction. The present study shows a large potential to use S2S forecasts to provide meaningful predictions of RSODs for farmers.

Open access
Jacob H. Segall, Michael M. French, Darrel M. Kingfield, Scott D. Loeffler, and Matthew R. Kumjian

Abstract

Polarimetric radar data from the WSR-88D network are used to examine the evolution of various polarimetric precursor signatures to tornado dissipation within a sample of 36 supercell storms. These signatures include an increase in bulk hook echo median raindrop size, a decrease in midlevel differential radar reflectivity factor (Z DR) column area, a decrease in the magnitude of the Z DR arc, an increase in the area of low-level large hail, and a decrease in the orientation angle of the vector separating low-level Z DR and specific differential phase (K DP) maxima. Only supercells that produced “long-duration” tornadoes (with at least four consecutive volumes of WSR-88D data) are investigated, so that signatures can be sufficiently tracked in time, and novel algorithms are used to isolate each storm-scale process. During the time leading up to tornado dissipation, we find that hook echo median drop size (D 0) and median Z DR remain relatively constant, but hook echo median K DP and estimated number concentration (NT) increase. The Z DR arc maximum magnitude and Z DRK DP separation orientation angles are observed to decrease in most dissipation cases. Neither the area of large hail nor the Z DR column area exhibit strong signals leading up to tornado dissipation. Finally, combinations of storm-scale behaviors and TVS behaviors occur most frequently just prior to tornado dissipation, but also are common 15–20 min prior to dissipation. The results from this study provide evidence that nowcasting tornado dissipation using dual-polarization radar may be possible when combined with TVS monitoring, subject to important caveats.

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Sebastian S. Harkema, Emily B. Berndt, John R. Mecikalski, and Alana Cordak

Abstract

Using gridded and interpolated derived motion winds from the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), a Lagrangian cloud-feature tracking technique was developed to create and document trajectories associated with electrified snowfall and changes in cloud characteristics leading up to the initiation of lightning, respectively. This study implemented a thundersnow detection algorithm and defined thundersnow initiation (TSI) as the first group in a flash detected by the Geostationary Lightning Mapper when snow was occurring. A total of 10 ABI channels and four multispectral [e.g., red–green–blue (RGB)] composites were analyzed to investigate characteristics that lead up to TSI for 16  644 thundersnow (TSSN) flashes. From the 10.3-μm channel, TSI trajectories were associated with a median decrease of 12.2 K in brightness temperature (TB) 1 h prior to TSI. Decreases in the reflectance component of the 3.9-μm channel indicated that TSI trajectories were associated with ice crystal collisions and/or particle settling at cloud top. The nighttime microphysics, day cloud phase distinction, differential water vapor, and airmass RGBs were examined to evaluate the microphysical and environmental changes prior to TSI. For daytime TSI trajectories, the predominant colors associated with the day cloud phase distinction RGB transitioned from cyan to yellow/green, physically representing cloud growth and glaciation at cloud top. Gold/orange hues in the differential water vapor RGB indicated that some trajectories were associated with dry upper-level air masses prior to TSI. The analysis of ABI characteristics prior to TSI, and subsequently relating those characteristics to physical processes, inherently increases the fundamental understanding and ability to forecast TSI; thus, providing additional lead time into changes in surface conditions (i.e., snowfall rates).

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Evan S. Bentley, Richard L. Thompson, Barry R. Bowers, Justin G. Gibbs, and Steven E. Nelson

Abstract

Previous work has considered tornado occurrence with respect to radar data, both WSR-88D and mobile research radars, and a few studies have examined techniques to potentially improve tornado warning performance. To date, though, there has been little work focusing on systematic, large-sample evaluation of National Weather Service (NWS) tornado warnings with respect to radar-observable quantities and the near-storm environment. In this work, three full years (2016–18) of NWS tornado warnings across the contiguous United States were examined, in conjunction with supporting data in the few minutes preceding warning issuance, or tornado formation in the case of missed events. The investigation herein examines WSR-88D and Storm Prediction Center (SPC) mesoanalysis data associated with these tornado warnings with comparisons made to the current Warning Decision Training Division (WDTD) guidance. Combining low-level rotational velocity and the significant tornado parameter (STP), as used in prior work, shows promise as a means to estimate tornado warning performance, as well as relative changes in performance as criteria thresholds vary. For example, low-level rotational velocity peaking in excess of 30 kt (15 m s−1), in a near-storm environment, which is not prohibitive for tornadoes (STP > 0), results in an increased probability of detection and reduced false alarms compared to observed NWS tornado warning metrics. Tornado warning false alarms can also be reduced through limiting warnings with weak (<30 kt), broad (>1 n mi; 1 n mi = 1.852 km) circulations in a poor (STP = 0) environment, careful elimination of velocity data artifacts like sidelobe contamination, and through greater scrutiny of human-based tornado reports in otherwise questionable scenarios.

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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 Daytime Cloud Optical and Microphysical Properties (DCOMP) cloud optical depth products were assimilated to improve the microphysical states. For an 8-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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Diego Pons, Ángel G. Muñoz, Ligia M. Meléndez, Mario Chocooj, Rosario Gómez, Xandre Chourio, and Carmen González Romero

Abstract

The provision of climate services has the potential to generate adaptive capacity and help coffee farmers become or remain profitable by integrating climate information in a risk-management framework. Yet, to achieve this goal, it is necessary to identify the local demand for climate information, the relationships between coffee yield and climate variables, and farmers’ perceptions and to examine the potential actions that can be realistically put in place by farmers at the local level. In this study, we assessed the climate information demands from coffee farmers and their perception on the climate impacts to coffee yield in the Samalá watershed in Guatemala. After co-identifying the related candidate climate predictors, we propose an objective, flexible forecast system for coffee yield that is based on precipitation. The system, known as NextGen, analyzes multiple historical climate drivers to identify candidate predictors and provides both deterministic and probabilistic forecasts for the target season. To illustrate the approach, a NextGen implementation is conducted in the Samalá watershed in southwestern Guatemala. The results suggest that accumulated June–August precipitation provides the highest predictive skill associated with coffee yield for this region. In addition to a formal cross-validated skill assessment, retrospective forecasts for the period 1989–2009 were compared with agriculturalists’ perception on the climate impacts to coffee yield at the farm level. We conclude with examples of how demand-based climate service provision in this location can inform adaptation strategies like optimum shade, pest control, and fertilization schemes months in advance. These potential adaptation strategies were validated by local agricultural technicians at the study site.

Open access