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John D. Horel
and
James T. Powell

Abstract

While many studies have examined intense rainfall and flash flooding during the North American monsoon (NAM) in Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico, less attention has focused on the NAM’s extension into southwestern Utah. This study relates flash flood reports and Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor (MRMS) precipitation across southwestern Utah to atmospheric moisture content and instability analyses and forecasts from the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) model during the 2021–23 monsoon seasons. MRMS quantitative precipitation estimates over southwestern Utah during the summer depend largely on the areal coverage from the KICX WSR-88D radar near Cedar City, Utah. Those estimates are generally consistent with the limited number of precipitation gauge reports in the region except at extended distances from the radar. A strong relationship is evident between days with widespread precipitation and afternoons with above-average precipitable water (PWAT) and convective available potential energy (CAPE) estimated from HRRR analyses across the region. Time-lagged ensembles of HRRR forecasts (initialization times from 0300 to 0600 UTC) that are 13–18 h prior to the afternoon period when convection is initiating (1800–2100 UTC) are useful for situational awareness of widespread precipitation events after adjusting for underprediction of afternoon CAPE. Improved skill is possible using random forest classification relying only on PWAT and CAPE to predict days experiencing excessive (upper quartile) precipitation. Such HRRR predictions may be useful for forecasters at the Salt Lake City National Weather Service Forecast Office to assist in issuing flash flood potential statements for visitors to national parks and other recreational areas in the region.

Significance Statement

Summer flash floods in southwestern Utah are a risk to area residents and millions of visitors annually to the region’s national parks, monuments, and recreational areas. The likelihood of flash floods within the region’s catchments depends on the intense afternoon and early evening convection initiated by lift and instability primarily due to terrain–flow interactions over elevated plateaus and mountains. Forecasts at lead times of 13–18 h of moisture and instability from the operational High-Resolution Rapid Refresh model have the potential to predict summer afternoons that are likely to have increased risks for higher rainfall amounts across southwestern Utah, although they are not expected to predict the likelihood of flash floods in any specific locale.

Open access
Christopher Rodell
,
Rosie Howard
,
Piyush Jain
,
Nadya Moisseeva
,
Timothy Chui
, and
Roland Stull

Abstract

Wildfire agencies use fire danger rating systems (FDRSs) to deploy resources and issue public safety measures. The most widely used FDRS is the Canadian fire weather index (FWI) system, which uses weather inputs to estimate the potential for wildfires to start and spread. Current FWI forecasts provide a daily numerical value, representing potential fire severity at an assumed midafternoon time for peak fire activity. This assumption, based on typical diurnal weather patterns, is not always valid. To address this, we developed an hourly FWI (HFWI) system using numerical weather prediction. We validate HFWI against the traditional daily FWI (DFWI) by comparing HFWI forecasts with observation-derived DFWI values from 917 surface fire weather stations in western North America. Results indicate strong correlations between forecasted HFWI and the observation-derived DFWI. A positive mean bias in the daily maximum values of HFWI compared to the traditional DFWI suggests that HFWI can better capture severe fire weather variations regardless of when they occur. We confirm this by comparing HFWI with hourly fire radiative power (FRP) satellite observations for nine wildfire case studies in Canada and the United States. We demonstrate HFWI’s ability to forecast shifts in fire danger timing, especially during intensified fire activity in the late evening and early morning hours, while allowing for multiple periods of increased fire danger per day—a contrast to the conventional DFWI. This research highlights the HFWI system’s value in improving fire danger assessments and predictions, hopefully enhancing wildfire management, especially during atypical fire behavior.

Open access
Darío Redolat
and
Robert Monjo

Abstract

It is widely known from energy balances that global oceans play a fundamental role in atmospheric seasonal anomalies via coupling mechanisms. However, numerical weather prediction models still have limitations in long-term forecasting due to their nonlinear sensitivity to initial deep oceanic conditions. As the Mediterranean climate has highly unpredictable seasonal variability, we designed a complementary method by supposing that 1) delayed teleconnection patterns provide information about ocean–atmosphere coupling on subseasonal time scales through the lens of 2) partially predictable quasi-periodic oscillations since 3) forecast signals can be extracted by smoothing noise in a continuous lead-time horizon. To validate these hypotheses, the subseasonal predictability of temperature and precipitation was analyzed at 11 reference stations in the Mediterranean area in the 1993–2021 period. The novel method, presented here, consists of combining lag-correlated teleconnections (15 indices) with self-predictability techniques of residual quasi-oscillation based on wavelet (cyclic) and autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) (linear) analyses. The prediction skill of this teleconnection–wavelet–ARIMA (TeWA) combination was cross-validated and compared to that of the ECMWF’s Seasonal Forecast System 5 (SEAS5)–ECMWF model (3 months ahead). Results show that the proposed TeWA approach improves the predictability of first-month temperature and precipitation anomalies by 50%–70% compared with the forecast of SEAS5. On a moving-averaged daily scale, the optimum prediction window is 30 days for temperature and 16 days for precipitation. The predictable ranges are consistent with atmospheric bridges in teleconnection patterns [e.g., Upper-Level Mediterranean Oscillation (ULMO)] and are reflected by spatial correlation with sea surface temperature (SST). Our results suggest that combinations of the TeWA approach and numerical models could boost new research lines in subseasonal-to-seasonal forecasting.

Significance Statement

The Mediterranean climate presents a high natural variability that makes skillful seasonal forecasts very difficult to achieve. We propose to complement the current forecasting methods with a statistical approach that combines two conceptual models: First, climate anomalies (cold/warm or dry/wet periods) are considered as smooth waves (with slow changes); and second, atmospheric and oceanic indices perform the role of atmosphere–ocean interactions, which impact Mediterranean climate variability in a delayed way. The key findings are that combining both sides, a better predictability of climate variability is provided, which is an opportunity to improve natural resource management and planning.

Open access
Ayumi Fujisaki-Manome
,
Haoguo Hu
,
Jia Wang
,
Joannes J. Westerink
,
Damrongsak Wirasaet
,
Guoming Ling
,
Mindo Choi
,
Saeed Moghimi
,
Edward Myers
,
Ali Abdolali
,
Clint Dawson
, and
Carol Janzen

Abstract

In Alaska’s coastal environment, accurate information of sea ice conditions is desired by operational forecasters, emergency managers, and responders. Complicated interactions among atmosphere, waves, ocean circulation, and sea ice collectively impact the ice conditions, intensity of storm surges, and flooding, making accurate predictions challenging. A collaborative work to build the Alaska Coastal Ocean Forecast System established an integrated storm surge, wave, and sea ice model system for the coasts of Alaska, where the verified model components are linked using the Earth System Modeling Framework and the National Unified Operational Prediction Capability. We present the verification of the sea ice model component based on the Los Alamos Sea Ice Model, version 6. The regional, high-resolution (3 km) configuration of the model was forced by operational atmospheric and ocean model outputs. Extensive numerical experiments were conducted from December 2018 to August 2020 to verify the model’s capability to represent detailed nearshore and offshore sea ice behavior, including landfast ice, ice thickness, and evolution of air–ice drag coefficient. Comparisons of the hindcast simulations with the observations of ice extent presented the model’s comparable performance with the Global Ocean Forecast System 3.1 (GOFS3.1). The model’s skill in reproducing landfast ice area significantly outperformed GOFS3.1. Comparison of the modeled sea ice freeboard with the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 product showed a mean bias of −4.6 cm. Daily 5-day forecast simulations for October 2020–August 2021 presented the model’s promising performance for future implementation in the coupled model system.

Significance Statement

Accurate sea ice information along Alaska’s coasts is desired by the communities for preparedness of hazardous events, such as storm surges and flooding. However, such information, in particular predicted conditions, remains to be a gap. This study presents the verification of the state-of-art sea ice model for Alaska’s coasts for future use in the more comprehensive coupled model system where ocean circulation, wave, and sea ice models are integrated. The model demonstrates comparable performance with the existing operational ocean–ice coupled model product in reproducing overall sea ice extent and significantly outperformed it in reproducing landfast ice cover. Comparison with the novel satellite product presented the model’s ability to capture sea ice freeboard in the stable ice season.

Open access
Temple R. Lee
,
Sandip Pal
,
Ronald D. Leeper
,
Tim Wilson
,
Howard J. Diamond
,
Tilden P. Meyers
, and
David D. Turner

Abstract

The scientific literature has many studies evaluating numerical weather prediction (NWP) models. However, many of those studies averaged across a myriad of different atmospheric conditions and surface forcings that can obfuscate the atmospheric conditions when NWP models perform well versus when they perform inadequately. To help isolate these different weather conditions, we used observations from the U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN) obtained between 1 January and 31 December 2021 to distinguish among different near-surface atmospheric conditions [i.e., different near-surface heating rates ( d T / d t ), incoming shortwave radiation (SW d ) regimes, and 5-cm soil moisture (SM05)] to evaluate the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) Model, which is a 3-km model used for operational weather forecasting in the United States. On days with small (large) d T / d t , we found afternoon T biases of about 2°C (−1°C) and afternoon SW d biases of up to 170 W m−2 (100 W m−2), but negligible impacts on SM05 biases. On days with small (large) SW d , we found daytime temperature biases of about 3°C (−2.5°C) and daytime SW d biases of up to 190 W m−2 (80 W m−2). Whereas different SM05 had little impact on T and SW d biases, dry (wet) conditions had positive (negative) SM05 biases. We argue that the proper evaluation of weather forecasting models requires careful consideration of different near-surface atmospheric conditions and is critical to better identify model deficiencies in order to support improvements to the parameterization schemes used therein. A similar, regime-specific verification approach may also be used to help evaluate other geophysical models.

Significance Statement

Improving weather forecasting models requires careful evaluations against high-quality observations. We used observations from the U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN) and found that the performance of the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) Model varies as a function of differences in near-surface heating and solar radiation. This finding indicates that model evaluations need to be conducted under varying near-surface weather conditions rather than averaging across multiple weather types. This new approach will allow for model developers to better identify model deficiencies and is a useful step to helping improve weather forecasts.

Open access
Gregory J. Stumpf
and
Sarah M. Stough

Abstract

Legacy National Weather Service verification techniques, when applied to current static severe convective warnings, exhibit limitations, particularly in accounting for the precise spatial and temporal aspects of warnings and severe convective events. Consequently, they are not particularly well suited for application to some proposed future National Weather Service warning delivery methods considered under the Forecasting a Continuum of Environmental Threats (FACETs) initiative. These methods include threats-in-motion (TIM), wherein warning polygons move nearly continuously with convective hazards, and probabilistic hazard information (PHI), a concept that involves augmenting warnings with rapidly updating probabilistic plumes. A new geospatial verification method was developed and evaluated, by which warnings and observations are placed on equivalent grids within a common reference frame, with each grid cell being represented as a hit, miss, false alarm, or correct null for each minute. New measures are computed, including false alarm area and location-specific lead time, departure time, and false alarm time. Using the 27 April 2011 tornado event, we applied the TIM and PHI warning techniques to demonstrate the benefits of rapidly updating warning areas, showcase the application of the geospatial verification method within this novel warning framework, and highlight the impact of varying probabilistic warning thresholds on warning performance. Additionally, the geospatial verification method was tested on a storm-based warning dataset (2008–22) to derive annual, monthly, and hourly statistics.

Open access
Xi Liu
,
Yu Zheng
,
Xiaoran Zhuang
,
Yaqiang Wang
,
Xin Li
,
Zhang Bei
, and
Wenhua Zhang

Abstract

The accurate prediction of short-term rainfall, and in particular the forecast of hourly heavy rainfall (HHR) probability, remains challenging for numerical weather prediction (NWP) models. Here, we introduce a deep learning (DL) model, PredRNNv2-AWS, a convolutional recurrent neural network designed for deterministic short-term rainfall forecasting. This model integrates surface rainfall observations and atmospheric variables simulated by the Precision Weather Analysis and Forecasting System (PWAFS). Our DL model produces realistic hourly rainfall forecasts for the next 13 h. Quantitative evaluations show that the use of surface rainfall observations as one of the predictors achieves higher performance (threat score) with 263% and 186% relative improvements over NWP simulations for the first 3 h and the entire forecast hours, respectively, at a threshold of 5 mm h−1. Noting that the optical-flow method also performs well in the initial hours, its predictions quickly worsen in the final hours compared to other experiments. The machine learning model, LightGBM, is then integrated to classify HHR from the predicted hourly rainfall of PredRNNv2-AWS. The results show that PredRNNv2-AWS can better reflect actual HHR conditions compared with PredRNNv2 and PWAFS. A representative case demonstrates the superiority of PredRNNv2-AWS in predicting the evolution of the rainy system, which substantially improves the accuracy of the HHR prediction. A test case involving the extreme flood event in Zhengzhou exemplifies the generalizability of our proposed model. Our model offers a reliable framework to predict target variables that can be obtained from numerical simulations and observations, e.g., visibility, wind power, solar energy, and air pollution.

Open access
Shu-Chih Yang
,
Yi-Pin Chang
,
Hsiang-Wen Cheng
,
Kuan-Jen Lin
,
Ya-Ting Tsai
,
Jing-Shan Hong
, and
Yu-Chi Li

Abstract

In this study, we investigate the impact of assimilating densely distributed Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) zenith total delay (ZTD) and surface station (SFC) data on the prediction of very short-term heavy rainfall associated with afternoon thunderstorm (AT) events in the Taipei basin. Under weak synoptic-scale conditions, four cases characterized by different rainfall features are chosen for investigation. Experiments are conducted with a 3-h assimilation period, followed by 3-h forecasts. Also, various experiments are performed to explore the sensitivity of AT initialization. Data assimilation experiments are conducted with a convective-scale Weather Research and Forecasting–local ensemble transform Kalman filter (WRF-LETKF) system. The results show that ZTD assimilation can provide effective moisture corrections. Assimilating SFC wind and temperature data could additionally improve the near-surface convergence and cold bias, further increasing the impact of ZTD assimilation. Frequently assimilating SFC data every 10 min provides the best forecast performance especially for rainfall intensity predictions. Such a benefit could still be identified in the earlier forecast initialized 2 h before the start of the event. Detailed analysis of a case on 22 July 2019 reveals that frequent assimilation provides initial conditions that can lead to fast vertical expansion of the convection and trigger an intense AT. This study proposes a new metric using the fraction skill score to construct an informative diagram to evaluate the location and intensity of heavy rainfall forecast and display a clear characteristic of different cases. Issues of how assimilation strategies affect the impact of ground-based observations in a convective ensemble data assimilation system and AT development are also discussed.

Significance Statement

In this study, we investigate the impact of frequently assimilating densely distributed ground-based observations on predicting four afternoon thunderstorm events in the Taipei basin. While assimilating GNSS-ZTD data can improve the moisture fields for initializing convection, assimilating surface station data improves the prediction of rainfall location and intensity, particularly when surface data are assimilated at a very high frequency of 10 min.

Open access
Peter J. Marinescu
,
Daniel Abdi
,
Kyle Hilburn
,
Isidora Jankov
, and
Liao-Fan Lin

Abstract

Estimates of soil moisture from two National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) models are compared to in situ observations. The estimates are from a high-resolution atmospheric model with a land surface model [High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) model] and a hydrologic model from the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC). Both models produce wetter soils in dry regions and drier soils in wet regions, as compared to the in situ observations. These soil moisture differences occur at most soil depths but are larger at the deeper depths below the surface (100 cm). Comparisons of soil moisture variability are also assessed as a function of soil moisture regime. Both models have lower standard deviations as compared to the in situ observations for all soil moisture regimes. The HRRR model’s soil moisture is better correlated with in situ observations for drier soils as compared to wetter soils—a trend that was not present in the CPC model comparisons. In terms of seasonality, soil moisture comparisons vary depending on the metric, time of year, and soil moisture regime. Therefore, consideration of both the seasonality and soil moisture regime is needed to accurately determine model biases. These NOAA soil moisture estimates are used for a variety of forecasting and societal applications, and understanding their differences provides important context for their applications and can lead to model improvements.

Significance Statement

Soil moisture is an essential variable coupling the land surface to the atmosphere. Accurate estimates of soil moisture are important for forecasting near-surface temperature and moisture, predicting where clouds will form, and assessing drought and fire risks. There are multiple estimates of soil moisture available, and in this study, we compare soil moisture estimates from two different National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) models to in situ observations. These comparisons include both soil moisture amount and variability and are conducted at several soil depths, in different soil moisture regimes, and for different seasons and years. This comprehensive assessment allows for an accurate assessment of biases within these models that would be missed when conducting analyses more broadly.

Open access
Stephanie S. Rushley
,
Matthew A. Janiga
,
William Crawford
,
Carolyn A. Reynolds
,
William Komaromi
, and
Justin McLay

Abstract

Accurately simulating the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO), which dominates intraseasonal (30–90 day) variability in the tropics, is critical to predicting tropical cyclones (TCs) and other phenomena at extended-range (2–3 week) time scales. MJO biases in intensity and propagation speed are a common problem in global coupled models. For example, the MJO in the Navy Earth System Prediction Capability (ESPC), a global coupled model, has been shown to be too strong and too fast, which has implications for the MJO–TC relationship in that model. The biases and extended-range prediction skill in the operational version of the Navy ESPC are compared to experiments applying different versions of analysis correction-based additive inflation (ACAI) to reduce model biases. ACAI is a method in which time-mean and stochastic perturbations based on analysis increments are added to the model tendencies with the goals of reducing systematic error and accounting for model uncertainty. Over the extended boreal summer (May–November), ACAI reduces the root-mean-squared error (RMSE) and improves the spread–skill relationship of the total tropical and MJO-filtered OLR and low-level zonal winds. While ACAI improves skill in the environmental fields of low-level absolute vorticity, potential intensity, and vertical wind shear, it degrades the skill in the relative humidity, which increases the positive bias in the genesis potential index (GPI) in the operational Navy ESPC. Northern Hemisphere integrated TC genesis biases are reduced (increased number of TCs) in the ACAI experiments, which is consistent with the positive GPI bias in the ACAI simulations.

Open access