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Masamichi Ohba, Shinji Kadokura, Yoshikatsu Yoshida, Daisuke Nohara, and Yasushi Toyoda

Abstract

Anomalous weather patterns (WPs) in relation to heavy precipitation events during the baiu season in Japan are investigated using a nonlinear classification technique known as the self-organizing map (SOM). The analysis is performed on daily time scales using the Japanese 55-year Reanalysis Project (JRA-55) to determine the role of circulation and atmospheric moisture on extreme events and to investigate interannual and interdecadal variations for possible linkages with global-scale climate variability. SOM is simultaneously employed on four atmospheric variables over East Asia that are related to baiu front variability, whereby anomalous WPs that dominated during the 1958–2011 period are obtained. Our analysis extracts seven typical WPs, which are linked to frequent occurrences of heavy precipitation events. Each WP is associated with regional variations in the probability of extreme precipitation events. On interannual time scales, El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) affects the frequency of the WPs in relation to the heavy rainfall events. The warm phase of ENSO results in an increased frequency of a WP that provides a southwesterly intrusion of high equivalent potential temperature at low levels, while the cold phase provides southeastern intrusion. In addition, the results of this analysis suggest that interdecadal variability of frequency for heavy rainfall events corresponds to changes in frequency distributions of WPs and are not due to one particular WP.

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Youcun Qi, Jian Zhang, Brian Kaney, Carrie Langston, and Kenneth Howard

Abstract

Quantitative precipitation estimation (QPE) in the West Coast region of the United States has been a big challenge for Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) because of severe blockages caused by the complex terrain. The majority of the heavy precipitation in the West Coast region is associated with strong moisture flux from the Pacific that interacts with the coastal mountains. Such orographic enhancement of precipitation occurs at low levels and cannot be observed well by WSR-88D because of severe blockages. Specifically, the radar beam either samples too high above the ground or misses the orographic enhancement at lower levels, or the beam broadens with range and cannot adequately resolve vertical variations of the reflectivity structure. The current study developed an algorithm that uses S-band Precipitation Profiler (S-PROF) radar observations in northern California to improve WSR-88D QPEs in the area. The profiler data are used to calculate two sets of reference vertical profiles of reflectivity (RVPRs), one for the coastal mountains and another for the Sierra Nevada. The RVPRs are then used to correct the WSR-88D QPEs in the corresponding areas. The S-PROF–based VPR correction methodology (S-PROF-VPR) has taken into account orographic processes and radar beam broadenings with range. It is tested using three heavy rain events and is found to provide significant improvements over the operational radar QPE.

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F. M. Ralph, T. Coleman, P. J. Neiman, R. J. Zamora, and M. D. Dettinger

Abstract

This study is motivated by diverse needs for better forecasts of extreme precipitation and floods. It is enabled by unique hourly observations collected over six years near California’s Russian River and by recent advances in the science of atmospheric rivers (ARs). This study fills key gaps limiting the prediction of ARs and, especially, their impacts by quantifying the duration of AR conditions and the role of duration in modulating hydrometeorological impacts. Precursor soil moisture conditions and their relationship to streamflow are also shown. On the basis of 91 well-observed events during 2004–10, the study shows that the passage of ARs over a coastal site lasted 20 h on average and that 12% of the AR events exceeded 30 h. Differences in storm-total water vapor transport directed up the mountain slope contribute 74% of the variance in storm-total rainfall across the events and 61% of the variance in storm-total runoff volume. ARs with double the composite mean duration produced nearly 6 times greater peak streamflow and more than 7 times the storm-total runoff volume. When precursor soil moisture was less than 20%, even heavy rainfall did not lead to significant streamflow. Predicting which AR events are likely to produce extreme impacts on precipitation and runoff requires accurate prediction of AR duration at landfall and observations of precursor soil moisture conditions.

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R. Uijlenhoet, J.-M. Cohard, and M. Gosset

Abstract

The potential of a near-infrared large-aperture boundary layer scintillometer as path-average rain gauge is investigated. The instrument was installed over a 2.4-km path in Benin as part of the African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analysis (AMMA) Enhanced Observation Period during 2006 and 2007. Measurements of the one-minute-average received signal intensity were collected for 6 rainfall events during the dry season and 16 events during the rainy season. Using estimates of the signal base level just before the onset of the rainfall events, the optical extinction coefficient is estimated from the path-integrated attenuation for each minute. The corresponding path-average rain rates are computed using a power-law relation between the optical extinction coefficient and rain rate obtained from measurements of raindrop size distributions with an optical spectropluviometer and a scaling-law formalism for describing raindrop size distribution variations. Comparisons of five-minute rainfall estimates with measurements from two nearby rain gauges show that the temporal dynamics are generally captured well by the scintillometer. However, the instrument has a tendency to underestimate rain rates and event total rain amounts with respect to the gauges. It is shown that this underestimation can be explained partly by systematic differences between the actual and the employed mean power-law relation between rain rate and specific attenuation, partly by unresolved spatial and temporal rainfall variations along the scintillometer path. Occasionally, the signal may even be lost completely. It is demonstrated that if these effects are properly accounted for by employing appropriate relations between rain rate and specific attenuation and by adapting the pathlength to the local rainfall climatology, scintillometer-based rainfall estimates can be within 20% of those estimated using rain gauges. These results demonstrate the potential of large-aperture scintillometers to estimate path-average rain rates at hydrologically relevant scales.

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Joël Jaffrain and Alexis Berne

Abstract

The variability of the (rain)drop size distribution (DSD) in time and space is an intrinsic property of rainfall, which is of primary importance for various environmental fields such as remote sensing of precipitation, for example. DSD observations are usually collected using disdrometers deployed at the ground level. Like any other measurement of a physical process, disdrometer measurements are affected by noise and sampling effects. This uncertainty must be quantified and taken into account in further analyses. This paper addresses this issue for the Particle Size Velocity (PARSIVEL) optical disdrometer by using a large dataset corresponding to light and moderate rainfall and collected from two collocated PARSIVELs deployed during 15 months in Lausanne, Switzerland. The relative sampling uncertainty associated with quantities characterizing the DSD—namely the total concentration of drops Nt and the median-volume diameter D 0—is quantified for different temporal resolutions. Similarly, the relative sampling uncertainty associated with the estimates of the most commonly used weighted moments of the DSD (i.e., the rain-rate R, the radar reflectivity at horizontal polarization Zh, and the differential reflectivity Z dr) is quantified as well for different weather radar frequencies. The relative sampling uncertainty associated with estimates of Nt is below 13% for time steps longer than 60 s. For D 0, it is below 8% for D 0 values smaller than 1 mm. The associated sampling uncertainty for estimates of R is on the order of 15% at a temporal resolution of 60 s. For Zh, the sampling uncertainty is below 9% for Zh values below 35 dBZ at a temporal resolution of 60 s. For Z dr values below 0.75 dB, the sampling uncertainty is below 36% for all temporal resolutions. These analyses provide relevant information for the accurate quantification of the variability of the DSD from disdrometer measurements.

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Sandra E. Yuter, David A. Stark, Justin A. Crouch, M. Jordan Payne, and Brian A. Colle

Abstract

Operational radar data from three winter seasons (2003–06) in Portland, Oregon, in the U.S. Pacific Northwest are used to describe how orographic precipitation varies with cross-barrier wind speed, 0°C level height, and stability over the moderately wide (~50-km half-width) Cascade Mountain Range. Orographic enhancement is specified in terms of location, frequency, and relative intensity of the reflectivity (precipitation field). The typical storm for the region, as defined by the 25th to 75th percentile characteristics, is compared to storms with <25th and >75th percentile characteristics for a given variable. About half of Portland-region storms have a low-level wind direction within a relatively narrow azimuth range. This subset of storms is used to examine the sensitivity of orographic enhancement relative to other environmental variables. Cross-barrier wind speed has a stronger role in determining the magnitude of precipitation frequency than either 0°C level or stability. Cross-barrier wind speed and 0°C level height have separate but comparable roles in determining the frequency of relatively heavier precipitation. The increase in precipitation frequency with stronger cross-barrier wind speed is partially attributed to the higher occurrence of intermittent convective cells intersecting the slope. The area where inferred riming growth occurs over local peaks on the windward slope broadens upslope as the 0°C level height increases. In the Portland region, variations in the squared moist Brunt–Väisälä frequency yield smaller differences in the pattern and intensity of precipitation enhancement than either cross-barrier wind speed or 0°C level height.

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James A. Smith, Gabriele Villarini, and Mary Lynn Baeck

Abstract

Flooding in the eastern United States reflects a mixture of flood-generating mechanisms, with landfalling tropical cyclones and extratropical systems playing central roles. The authors examine the climatology of heavy rainfall and flood magnitudes for the eastern United States through analyses of long-duration records of flood peaks and maximum daily rainfall series. Spatial heterogeneities in flood peak distributions due to orographic precipitation mechanisms in mountainous terrain, coastal circulations near land–ocean boundaries, and urbanization impacts on regional climate are central elements of flood peak distributions. Lagrangian analyses of rainfall distribution and storm evolution are presented for flood events in the eastern United States and used to motivate new directions for stochastic modeling of rainfall. Tropical cyclones are an important element of the upper tail of flood peak distributions throughout the eastern United States, but their relative importance varies widely, and abruptly, in space over the region. Nonstationarities and long-term persistence of flood peak and rainfall distributions are examined from the perspective of the impacts of human-induced climate change on flood-generating mechanisms. Analyses of flood frequency for the eastern United States, which are based on observations from a dense network of U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) stream gauging stations, provide insights into emerging problems in flood science.

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Xiaogu Zheng and Craig S. Thompson

Abstract

Recently, a single-site stochastic precipitation model called “the mixture of generalized chain-dependent processes conditioned on a climate variable” was developed. The model can effectively eliminate overdispersion—that is, underestimation in variance of seasonal precipitation total. In this paper, the single-site model is further developed into a multisite stochastic precipitation model by driving a collection of individual single-site models, but with spatial dependence following a method proposed by D. S. Wilks. Specifically, a computationally effective algorithm for estimating the spatial dependence of precipitation occurrence is developed to replace the construction of the empirical curves in the Wilks method. An effective and straightforward approach for correcting the bias of the spatial correlation of precipitation intensity is also proposed. This model is tested on a small network of sites from a significant hydroelectric power generation region of South Island, New Zealand.

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Dusanka Zupanski, Sara Q. Zhang, Milija Zupanski, Arthur Y. Hou, and Samson H. Cheung

Abstract

In the near future, the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission will provide precipitation observations with unprecedented accuracy and spatial/temporal coverage of the globe. For hydrological applications, the satellite observations need to be downscaled to the required finer-resolution precipitation fields. This paper explores a dynamic downscaling method using ensemble data assimilation techniques and cloud-resolving models. A prototype ensemble data assimilation system using the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) has been developed. A high-resolution regional WRF with multiple nesting grids is used to provide the first-guess and ensemble forecasts. An ensemble assimilation algorithm based on the maximum likelihood ensemble filter (MLEF) is used to perform the analysis. The forward observation operators from NOAA–NCEP’s gridpoint statistical interpolation (GSI) are incorporated for using NOAA–NCEP operational datastream, including conventional data and clear-sky satellite observations. Precipitation observation operators are developed with a combination of the cloud-resolving physics from NASA Goddard cumulus ensemble (GCE) model and the radiance transfer schemes from NASA Satellite Data Simulation Unit (SDSU). The prototype of the system is used as a test bed to optimally combine observations and model information to produce a dynamically downscaled precipitation analysis. A case study on Tropical Storm Erin (2007) is presented to investigate the ability of the prototype of the WRF Ensemble Data Assimilation System (WRF-EDAS) to ingest information from in situ and satellite observations including precipitation-affected radiance. The results show that the analyses and forecasts produced by the WRF-EDAS system are comparable to or better than those obtained with the WRF-GSI analysis scheme using the same set of observations. An experiment was also performed to examine how the analyses and short-term forecasts of microphysical variables and dynamical fields are influenced by the assimilation of precipitation-affected radiances. The results highlight critical issues to be addressed in the next stage of development such as model-predicted hydrometeor control variables and associated background error covariance, bias estimation, and correction in radiance space, as well as the observation error statistics. While further work is needed to optimize the performance of WRF-EDAS, this study establishes the viability of developing a cloud-scale ensemble data assimilation system that has the potential to provide a useful vehicle for downscaling satellite precipitation information to finer scales suitable for hydrological applications.

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F. M. Ralph, E. Sukovich, D. Reynolds, M. Dettinger, S. Weagle, W. Clark, and P. J. Neiman

Abstract

Extreme precipitation events, and the quantitative precipitation forecasts (QPFs) associated with them, are examined. The study uses data from the Hydrometeorology Testbed (HMT), which conducted its first field study in California during the 2005/06 cool season. National Weather Service River Forecast Center (NWS RFC) gridded QPFs for 24-h periods at 24-h (day 1), 48-h (day 2), and 72-h (day 3) forecast lead times plus 24-h quantitative precipitation estimates (QPEs) from sites in California (CA) and Oregon–Washington (OR–WA) are used. During the 172-day period studied, some sites received more than 254 cm (100 in.) of precipitation. The winter season produced many extreme precipitation events, including 90 instances when a site received more than 7.6 cm (3.0 in.) of precipitation in 24 h (i.e., an “event”) and 17 events that exceeded 12.7 cm (24 h)−1 [5.0 in. (24 h)−1]. For the 90 extreme events {>7.6 cm (24 h)−1 [3.0 in. (24 h)−1]}, almost 90% of all the 270 QPFs (days 1–3) were biased low, increasingly so with greater lead time. Of the 17 observed events exceeding 12.7 cm (24 h)−1 [5.0 in. (24 h)−1], only 1 of those events was predicted to be that extreme. Almost all of the extreme events correlated with the presence of atmospheric river conditions. Total seasonal QPF biases for all events {i.e., ≥0.025 cm (24 h)−1 [0.01 in. (24 h)−1]} were sensitive to local geography and were generally biased low in the California–Nevada River Forecast Center (CNRFC) region and high in the Northwest River Forecast Center (NWRFC) domain. The low bias in CA QPFs improved with shorter forecast lead time and worsened for extreme events. Differences were also noted between the CNRFC and NWRFC in terms of QPF and the frequency of extreme events. A key finding from this study is that there were more precipitation events >7.6 cm (24 h)−1 [3.0 in. (24 h)−1] in CA than in OR–WA. Examination of 422 Cooperative Observer Program (COOP) sites in the NWRFC domain and 400 in the CNRFC domain found that the thresholds for the top 1% and top 0.1% of precipitation events were 7.6 cm (24 h)−1 [3.0 in. (24 h)−1] and 14.2 cm (24 h)−1 [5.6 in. (24 h)−1] or greater for the CNRFC and only 5.1 cm (24 h)−1 [2.0 in. (24 h)−1] and 9.4 cm (24 h)−1 [3.7 in. (24 h)−1] for the NWRFC, respectively. Similar analyses for all NWS RFCs showed that the threshold for the top 1% of events varies from ∼3.8 cm (24 h)−1 [1.5 in. (24 h)−1] in the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center (CBRFC) to ∼5.1 cm (24 h)−1 [3.0 in. (24 h)−1] in the northern tier of RFCs and ∼7.6 cm (24 h)−1 [3.0 in. (24 h)−1] in both the southern tier and the CNRFC. It is recommended that NWS QPF performance in the future be assessed for extreme events using these thresholds.

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