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Michael Maier-Gerber
,
Michael Riemer
,
Andreas H. Fink
,
Peter Knippertz
,
Enrico Di Muzio
, and
Ron McTaggart-Cowan

Abstract

Tropical cyclones that evolve from a nontropical origin and undergo tropical transition (TT) play a prominent role in cyclogenesis in the North Atlantic Ocean. They pose a special challenge for predictions, as they often emerge at the end of a multiscale cascade of atmospheric processes. Here we use operational European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts ensemble predictions to investigate the TT of North Atlantic Hurricane Chris (2012), whose formation was preceded by the merger of two potential vorticity (PV) maxima, eventually resulting in the cyclone-inducing PV streamer. The principal goal is to elucidate the dynamic and thermodynamic processes governing the predictability of Chris’s cyclogenesis and subsequent TT. Dynamic time warping is applied to identify ensemble tracks that are similar to the analysis track. This technique permits small temporal and spatial shifts in the development. The formation of the pre-Chris cyclone is predicted by those members that also predict the merging of the two PV maxima. The PV streamer’s shape and its position relative to the pre-Chris cyclone determine whether the cyclone follows the TT pathway. The transitioning cyclones are located inside a favorable region of high equivalent potential temperatures that result from a warm seclusion underneath the cyclonic roll-up of the PV streamer. A systematic investigation of consecutive ensemble forecasts indicates that sudden changes in ensemble statistics of cyclone metrics are linked to specific events. The present case exemplifies how a novel combination of Eulerian and cyclone-relative ensemble forecast analysis tools allow inference of physical causes of abrupt changes in predictability.

Open access
Jacopo Riboldi
,
Christian M. Grams
,
Michael Riemer
, and
Heather M. Archambault

Abstract

The extratropical transition (ET) of tropical cyclones (TCs) can significantly influence the evolution of the midlatitude flow. However, the interaction between recurving TCs and upstream upper-level troughs features a large and partly unexplained case-to-case variability. In this study, a synoptic, feature-based climatology of TC–trough interactions is constructed to discriminate recurving TCs that interact with decelerating and accelerating troughs. Upper-level troughs reducing their eastward propagation speed during the interaction with recurving TCs exhibit phase locking with lower-level temperature anomalies and are linked to pronounced downstream Rossby wave amplification. Conversely, accelerating troughs do not exhibit phase locking and are associated with a nonsignificant downstream impact. Irrotational outflow near the tropopause associated with latent heat release in regions of heavy precipitation near the transitioning storm can promote phase locking (via enhancement of trough deceleration) and further enhance the downstream impact (via advection of air with low potential vorticity in the direction of the waveguide). These different impacts affect the probability of atmospheric blocking at the end of the Pacific storm track, which is generally higher if a TC–trough interaction occurs in the western North Pacific. Blocking in the eastern North Pacific is up to 3 times more likely than climatology if an interaction between a TC and a decelerating trough occurs upstream, whereas no statistical deviation with respect to climatology is observed for accelerating troughs. The outlined results support the hypothesis that differences in phase locking can explain the observed variability in the downstream impact of ET.

Full access
Hilke S. Lentink
,
Christian M. Grams
,
Michael Riemer
, and
Sarah C. Jones

Abstract

Extratropical transition (ET) can cause high-impact weather in midlatitude regions and therefore constitutes an ongoing threat at the end of a tropical cyclone’s (TC) life cycle. Most of the ET events occur over the ocean, but some TCs recurve and undergo ET along coastal regions; however, the latter category is less investigated. Typhoon Sinlaku (2008), for example, underwent ET along the southern coast of Japan. It was one of the typhoons that occurred during the T-PARC field campaign, providing unprecedented high-resolution observational data. Sinlaku is therefore an excellent case to investigate the impact of a coastal region, and in particular orography, on the evolution of ET. Here, observations from T-PARC are employed to verify high-resolution simulations of Sinlaku. In addition, a sensitivity simulation is performed with the orography of Japan removed. The presence of orography causes blocking of low-level, cool midlatitude air north of Japan. Without this inflow of cool air, ET is delayed. Only once Sinlaku moves away from the orographic barrier does the cool, dry environmental air penetrate equatorward, and ET continues. On a local scale, evaporatively cooled air from below Sinlaku’s asymmetric precipitation field could be advected toward the cyclone center when orography was favorable for it. Changes in the vortex structure, as known from mature TCs interacting with orography, were only minor due to the high translation speed during ET. This study corroborates that orography can impact ET by modulating both the synoptic-scale environmental conditions and the mesoscale cyclone structure during ET.

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Paolo Ghinassi
,
Georgios Fragkoulidis
, and
Volkmar Wirth

Abstract

Upper-tropospheric Rossby wave packets (RWPs) are important dynamical features, because they are often associated with weather systems and sometimes act as precursors to high-impact weather. The present work introduces a novel diagnostic to identify RWPs and to quantify their amplitude. It is based on the local finite-amplitude wave activity (LWA) of Huang and Nakamura, which is generalized to the primitive equations in isentropic coordinates. The new diagnostic is applied to a specific episode containing large-amplitude RWPs and compared with a more traditional diagnostic based on the envelope of the meridional wind. In this case, LWA provides a more coherent picture of the RWPs and their zonal propagation. This difference in performance is demonstrated more explicitly in the framework of an idealized barotropic model simulation, where LWA is able to follow an RWP into its fully nonlinear stage, including cutoff formation and wave breaking, while the envelope diagnostic yields reduced amplitudes in such situations.

Open access
Stephan Rasp
and
Sebastian Lerch

Abstract

Ensemble weather predictions require statistical postprocessing of systematic errors to obtain reliable and accurate probabilistic forecasts. Traditionally, this is accomplished with distributional regression models in which the parameters of a predictive distribution are estimated from a training period. We propose a flexible alternative based on neural networks that can incorporate nonlinear relationships between arbitrary predictor variables and forecast distribution parameters that are automatically learned in a data-driven way rather than requiring prespecified link functions. In a case study of 2-m temperature forecasts at surface stations in Germany, the neural network approach significantly outperforms benchmark postprocessing methods while being computationally more affordable. Key components to this improvement are the use of auxiliary predictor variables and station-specific information with the help of embeddings. Furthermore, the trained neural network can be used to gain insight into the importance of meteorological variables, thereby challenging the notion of neural networks as uninterpretable black boxes. Our approach can easily be extended to other statistical postprocessing and forecasting problems. We anticipate that recent advances in deep learning combined with the ever-increasing amounts of model and observation data will transform the postprocessing of numerical weather forecasts in the coming decade.

Open access
Marlene Baumgart
,
Michael Riemer
,
Volkmar Wirth
,
Franziska Teubler
, and
Simon T. K. Lang

Abstract

Synoptic-scale error growth near the tropopause is investigated from a process-based perspective. Following previous work, a potential vorticity (PV) error tendency equation is derived and partitioned into individual contributions to yield insight into the processes governing error growth near the tropopause. Importantly, we focus here on the further amplification of preexisting errors and not on the origin of errors. The individual contributions to error growth are quantified in a case study of a 6-day forecast. In this case, localized mesoscale error maxima have formed by forecast day 2. These maxima organize into a wavelike pattern and reach the Rossby wave scale around forecast day 6. Error growth occurs most prominently within the Atlantic and Pacific Rossby wave patterns. In our PV framework, the error growth is dominated by the contribution of upper-level, near-tropopause PV anomalies (near-tropopause dynamics). Significant contributions from upper-tropospheric divergent flow (prominently associated with latent heat release below) and lower-tropospheric anomalies [tropospheric-deep (i.e., baroclinic) interaction] are associated with a misrepresentation of the surface cyclone development in the forecast. These contributions are, in general, of smaller importance to error growth than near-tropopause dynamics. This result indicates that the mesoscale errors generated near the tropopause do not primarily project on differences in the subsequent baroclinic growth, but instead directly project on the tropopause evolution and amplify because of differences in the nonlinear Rossby wave dynamics.

Open access
Gabriel Wolf
and
Volkmar Wirth

Abstract

It has been suggested that upper-tropospheric Rossby wave packets propagating along the midlatitude waveguide may play a role for triggering severe weather. This motivates the search for robust methods to detect and track Rossby wave packets and to diagnose their properties. In the framework of several observed cases, this paper compares different methods that have been proposed for these tasks, with an emphasis on horizontal propagation and on a particular formulation of a wave activity flux previously suggested by Takaya and Nakamura. The utility of this flux is compromised by the semigeostrophic nature of upper-tropospheric Rossby waves, but this problem can partly be overcome by a semigeostrophic coordinate transformation. The wave activity flux allows one to obtain information from a single snapshot about the meridional propagation, in particular propagation from or into polar and subtropical latitudes, as well as about the onset of wave breaking. This helps to clarify the dynamics of individual wave packets in cases where other, more conventional methods provide ambiguous or even misleading information. In some cases, the “true dynamics” of the Rossby wave packet turns out to be more complex than apparent from the more conventional diagnostics, and this may have important implications for the predictability of the wave packet.

Full access
Stephan Rasp
,
Tobias Selz
, and
George C. Craig

Abstract

Air parcel ascent in midlatitude cyclones driven by latent heat release has been investigated using convection-permitting simulations together with an online trajectory calculation scheme. Three cyclones were simulated to represent different ascent regimes: one continental summer case, which developed strong convection organized along a cold front; one marine winter case representing a slantwise ascending warm conveyor belt; and one autumn case, which contains both ascent types as well as mesoscale convective systems. Distributions of ascent times differ significantly in mean and shape between the convective summertime case and the synoptic wintertime case, with the mean ascent time being one order of magnitude larger for the latter. For the autumn case the distribution is a superposition of both ascent types, which could be separated spatially and temporally in the simulation. In the slowly ascending airstreams a significant portion of the parcels still experienced short phases of convective ascent. These are linked to line convection in the boundary layer for the wintertime case and an elevated conditionally unstable layer in the autumn case. Potential vorticity (PV) modification during ascent has also been investigated. Despite the different ascent characteristics it was found that net PV change between inflow and outflow levels is very close to zero in all cases. The spread of individual PV values, however, is increased after the ascent. This effect is more pronounced for convective trajectories.

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