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Felipe M. de Andrade, Matthew P. Young, David MacLeod, Linda C. Hirons, Steven J. Woolnough, and Emily Black

Abstract

This paper evaluates subseasonal precipitation forecasts for Africa using hindcasts from three models (ECMWF, UKMO, and NCEP) participating in the Subseasonal to Seasonal (S2S) prediction project. A variety of verification metrics are employed to assess weekly precipitation forecast quality at lead times of one to four weeks ahead (weeks 1–4) during different seasons. Overall, forecast evaluation indicates more skillful predictions for ECMWF over other models and for East Africa over other regions. Deterministic forecasts show substantial skill reduction in weeks 3–4 linked to lower association and larger underestimation of predicted variance compared to weeks 1–2. Tercile-based probabilistic forecasts reveal similar characteristics for extreme categories and low quality in the near-normal category. Although discrimination is low in weeks 3–4, probabilistic forecasts still have reasonable skill, especially in wet regions during particular rainy seasons. Forecasts are found to be overconfident for all weeks, indicating the need to apply calibration for more reliable predictions. Forecast quality within the ECMWF model is also linked to the strength of climate drivers’ teleconnections, namely, El Niño–Southern Oscillation, Indian Ocean dipole, and the Madden–Julian oscillation. The impact of removing all driver-related precipitation regression patterns from observations and hindcasts shows reduction of forecast quality compared to including all drivers’ signals, with more robust effects in regions where the driver strongly relates to precipitation variability. Calibrating forecasts by adding observed regression patterns to hindcasts provides improved forecast associations particularly linked to the Madden–Julian oscillation. Results from this study can be used to guide decision-makers and forecasters in disseminating valuable forecasting information for different societal activities in Africa.

Open access
Cheng Zheng, Edmund Kar-Man Chang, Hyemi Kim, Minghua Zhang, and Wanqiu Wang

Abstract

The prediction of wintertime extratropical cyclone activity (ECA) on subseasonal time scales by models participating in the Subseasonal Experiment (SubX) and the Seasonal to Subseasonal Prediction (S2S) is assessed. Consistent with a previous study that investigated the S2S models, the SubX models have skillful predictions of ECA over regions from central North Pacific across North America to western North Atlantic, as well as East Asia and northern and southern part of eastern North Atlantic at 3–4 weeks lead time. SubX provides daily mean data, while S2S provides instantaneous data at 0000 UTC each day. This leads to different variance of ECA. Different S2S and SubX models have different reforecast initialization times and reforecast time periods. These factors can all lead to differences in prediction skill. To fairly compare the prediction skill between different models, we develop a novel way to evaluate the prediction of individual model across the two ensembles by comparing every model to the Climate Forecast System, version 2 (CFSv2), as CFSv2 has 6-hourly output and forecasts initialized every day. Among the S2S and SubX models, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts model exhibits the best prediction skill, followed by CFSv2. Our results also suggest that while the prediction skill is sensitive to forecast lead time, including forecasts up to 4 days old into the ensemble may still be useful for weeks 3–4 predictions of ECA.

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Nicholas P. Klingaman, Matthew Young, Amulya Chevuturi, Bruno Guimaraes, Liang Guo, Steven J. Woolnough, Caio A. S. Coelho, Paulo Y. Kubota, and Christopher E. Holloway

Abstract

Skillful and reliable predictions of week-to-week rainfall variations in South America, two to three weeks ahead, are essential to protect lives, livelihoods, and ecosystems. We evaluate forecast performance for weekly rainfall in extended austral summer (November–March) in four contemporary subseasonal systems, including a new Brazilian model, at 1–5-week leads for 1999–2010. We measure performance by the correlation coefficient (in time) between predicted and observed rainfall; we measure skill by the Brier skill score for rainfall terciles against a climatological reference forecast. We assess unconditional performance (i.e., regardless of initial condition) and conditional performance based on the initial phase of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) and El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). All models display substantial mean rainfall biases, including dry biases in Amazonia and wet biases near the Andes, which are established by week 1 and vary little thereafter. Unconditional performance extends to week 2 in all regions except for Amazonia and the Andes, but to week 3 only over northern, northeastern, and southeastern South America. Skill for upper- and lower-tercile rainfall extends only to week 1. Conditional performance is not systematically or significantly higher than unconditional performance; ENSO and MJO events provide limited “windows of opportunity” for improved S2S predictions that are region and model dependent. Conditional performance may be degraded by errors in predicted ENSO and MJO teleconnections to regional rainfall, even at short lead times.

Open access
Christopher A. Kerr, Louis J. Wicker, and Patrick S. Skinner

Abstract

The Warn-on-Forecast system (WoFS) provides short-term, probabilistic forecasts of severe convective hazards including tornadoes, hail, and damaging winds. WoFS initial conditions are created through frequent assimilation of radar (reflectivity and radial velocity), satellite, and in situ observations. From 2016 to 2018, 5-km radial velocity Cressman superob analyses were created to reduce the observation counts and subsequent assimilation computational costs. The superobbing procedure smooths the radial velocity and subsequently fails to accurately depict important storm-scale features such as mesocyclones. This study retrospectively assimilates denser, 3-km radial velocity analyses in lieu of the 5-km analyses for eight case studies during the spring of 2018. Although there are forecast improvements during and shortly after convection initiation, 3-km analyses negatively impact forecasts initialized when convection is ongoing, as evidenced by model failure and initiation of spurious convection. Therefore, two additional experiments are performed using adaptive assimilation of 3-km radial velocity observations. Initially, an updraft variance mask is applied that limits radial velocity assimilation to areas where the observations are more likely to be beneficial. This experiment reduces spurious convection as well as the number of observations assimilated, in some cases even below that of the 5-km analysis experiments. The masking, however, eliminates an advantage of 3-km radial velocity assimilation for convection initiation timing. This problem is mitigated by additionally assimilating 3-km radial velocity observations in locations where large differences exist between the observed and ensemble-mean reflectivity fields, which retains the benefits of the denser radial velocity analyses while reducing the number of observations assimilated.

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Michael J. Erickson, Benjamin Albright, and James A. Nelson

Abstract

The Weather Prediction Center’s Excessive Rainfall Outlook (ERO) forecasts the probability of rainfall exceeding flash flood guidance within 40 km of a point. This study presents a comprehensive ERO verification between 2015 and 2019 using a combination of flooding observations and proxies. ERO spatial issuance frequency plots are developed to provide situational awareness for forecasters. Reliability of the ERO is assessed by computing fractional coverage of the verification within each probabilistic category. Probabilistic forecast skill is evaluated using the Brier skill score (BSS) and area under the relative operating characteristic (AUC). A “probabilistic observation” called practically perfect (PP) is developed and compared to the ERO as an additional measure of skill. The areal issuance frequency of the ERO varies spatially with the most abundant issuances spanning from the Gulf Coast to the Midwest and the Appalachians. ERO issuances occur most often in the summer and are associated with the Southwestern monsoon, mesoscale convective systems, and tropical cyclones. The ERO exhibits good reliability on average, although more recent trends suggest some ERO-defined probabilistic categories should be issued more frequently. AUC and BSS are useful bulk skill metrics, while verification against PP is useful in bulk and for shorter-term ERO evaluation. ERO forecasts are generally more skillful at shorter lead times in terms of AUC and BSS. There is no trend in ERO area size over 5 years, although ERO forecasts may be getting slightly more skillful in terms of critical success index when verified against the PP.

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Yun Fan, Vladimir Krasnopolsky, Huug van den Dool, Chung-Yu Wu, and Jon Gottschalck

Abstract

Forecast skill from dynamical forecast models decreases quickly with projection time due to various errors. Therefore, post-processing methods, from simple bias correction methods to more complicated multiple linear regression-based Model Output Statistics, are used to improve raw model forecasts. Usually, these methods show clear forecast improvement over the raw model forecasts, especially for short-range weather forecasts. However, linear approaches have limitations because the relationship between predictands and predictors may be nonlinear. This is even truer for extended range forecasts, such as Week 3-4 forecasts.

In this study, neural network techniques are used to seek or model the relationships between a set of predictors and predictands, and eventually to improve Week 3-4 precipitation and 2-meter temperature forecasts made by the NOAA NCEP Climate Forecast System. Benefitting from advances in machine learning techniques in recent years, more flexible and capable machine learning algorithms and availability of big datasets enable us not only to explore nonlinear features or relationships within a given large dataset, but also to extract more sophisticated pattern relationships and co-variabilities hidden within the multi-dimensional predictors and predictands. Then these more sophisticated relationships and high-level statistical information are used to correct the model Week 3-4 precipitation and 2-meter temperature forecasts. The results show that to some extent neural network techniques can significantly improve the Week 3-4 forecast accuracy and greatly increase the efficiency over the traditional multiple linear regression methods.

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Hailiang Du

Abstract

The evaluation of probabilistic forecasts plays a central role both in the interpretation and in the use of forecast systems and their development. Probabilistic scores (scoring rules) provide statistical measures to assess the quality of probabilistic forecasts. Often, many probabilistic forecast systems are available while evaluations of their performance are not standardized, with different scoring rules being used to measure different aspects of forecast performance. Even when the discussion is restricted to strictly proper scoring rules, there remains considerable variability between them; indeed strictly proper scoring rules need not rank competing forecast systems in the same order when none of these systems are perfect. The locality property is explored to further distinguish scoring rules. The nonlocal strictly proper scoring rules considered are shown to have a property that can produce “unfortunate” evaluations. Particularly the fact that Continuous Rank Probability Score prefers the outcome close to the median of the forecast distribution regardless the probability mass assigned to the value at/near the median raises concern to its use. The only local strictly proper scoring rules, the logarithmic score, has direct interpretations in terms of probabilities and bits of information. The nonlocal strictly proper scoring rules, on the other hand, lack meaningful direct interpretation for decision support. The logarithmic score is also shown to be invariant under smooth transformation of the forecast variable, while the nonlocal strictly proper scoring rules considered may, however, change their preferences due to the transformation. It is therefore suggested that the logarithmic score always be included in the evaluation of probabilistic forecasts.

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John L. Cintineo, Michael J. Pavolonis, Justin M. Sieglaff, Anthony Wimmers, Jason Brunner, and Willard Bellon

Abstract

Intense thunderstorms threaten life and property, impact aviation, and are a challenging forecast problem, particularly without precipitation-sensing radar data. Trained forecasters often look for features in geostationary satellite images such as rapid cloud growth, strong and persistent overshooting tops, U- or V-shaped patterns in storm-top temperature (and associated above-anvil cirrus plumes), thermal couplets, intricate texturing in cloud albedo (e.g., “bubbling” cloud tops), cloud-top divergence, spatial and temporal trends in lightning, and other nuances to identify intense thunderstorms. In this paper, a machine-learning algorithm was employed to automatically learn and extract salient features and patterns in geostationary satellite data for the prediction of intense convection. Namely, a convolutional neural network (CNN) was trained on 0.64-μm reflectance and 10.35-μm brightness temperature from the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) and flash-extent density (FED) from the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) on board GOES-16. Using a training dataset consisting of over 220 000 human-labeled satellite images, the CNN learned pertinent features that are known to be associated with intense convection and skillfully discriminated between intense and ordinary convection. The CNN also learned a more nuanced feature associated with intense convection—strong infrared brightness temperature gradients near cloud edges in the vicinity of the main updraft. A successive-permutation test ranked the most important predictors as follows: 1) ABI 10.35-μm brightness temperature, 2) ABI GLM flash-extent density, and 3) ABI 0.64-μm reflectance. The CNN model can provide forecasters with quantitative information that often foreshadows the occurrence of severe weather, day or night, over the full range of instrument-scan modes.

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I-Han Chen, Jing-Shan Hong, Ya-Ting Tsai, and Chin-Tzu Fong

Abstract

Recently, the Central Weather Bureau of Taiwan developed a WRF- and WRF data assimilation (WRFDA)-based convective-scale data assimilation system to increase model predictability toward high-impact weather. In this study, we focus on afternoon thunderstorm (AT) prediction and investigate the following questions: 1) Is the designation of a rapid update cycle strategy with a blending scheme effective? 2) Can surface data assimilation contribute positively to AT prediction under the complex geography of Taiwan island? 3) What is the relative importance between radar and surface observation to AT prediction? 4) Can we increase the AT forecast lead time in the morning through data assimilation? Consecutive ATs from 30 June to 8 July 2017 are investigated. Five experiments, each having 240 continuous cycles, are designed. Results show that employing continuous cycles with a blending scheme mitigates model spinup compared with downscaled forecasts. Although there are few radar echoes before AT initiation, assimilating radar observations is still crucial since it largely corrects model errors in cycles. However, assimilating surface observations is more important compared with radar in terms of extending forecast lead time in the morning. Either radar or surface observations contribute positively, and assimilating both has the highest QPF score. Assimilating surface observations systematically improves surface wind and temperature predictions based on 240 cases. A case study demonstrates that the model can capture the AT initiation and development by assimilating surface and radar observations. Its cold pool and outflow boundary prediction are also improved. In this case, the assimilation of surface wind and water vapor in the morning contributes more compared with temperature and pressure.

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Brice E. Coffer, Mateusz Taszarek, and Matthew D. Parker

Abstract

The near-ground wind profile exhibits significant control over the organization, intensity, and steadiness of low-level updrafts and mesocyclones in severe thunderstorms, and thus their probability of being associated with tornadogenesis. The present work builds upon recent improvements in supercell tornado forecasting by examining the possibility that storm-relative helicity (SRH) integrated over progressively shallower layers has increased skill in differentiating between significantly tornadic and nontornadic severe thunderstorms. For a population of severe thunderstorms in the United States and Europe, sounding-derived parameters are computed from the ERA5 reanalysis, which has significantly enhanced vertical resolution compared to prior analyses. The ERA5 is shown to represent U.S. convective environments similarly to the Storm Prediction Center’s mesoscale surface objective analysis, but its greater number of vertical levels in the lower troposphere permits calculations to be performed over shallower layers. In the ERA5, progressively shallower layers of SRH provide greater discrimination between nontornadic and significantly tornadic thunderstorms in both the United States and Europe. In the United States, the 0–100 m AGL layer has the highest forecast skill of any SRH layer tested, although gains are comparatively modest for layers shallower than 0–500 m AGL. In Europe, the benefit from using shallower layers of SRH is even greater; the lower-tropospheric SRH is by far the most skillful ingredient there, far exceeding related composite parameters like the significant tornado parameter (which has negligible skill in Europe).

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