Abstract

Using nine years of historical forecasts spanning April 2003–April 2012 from NOAA’s Second Generation Global Ensemble Forecast System Reforecast (GEFS/R) ensemble, random forest (RF) models are trained to make probabilistic predictions of severe weather across the contiguous United States (CONUS) at Days 1–3, with separate models for tornado, hail, and severe wind prediction at Day 1 in an analogous fashion to the Storm Prediction Center’s (SPC’s) convective outlooks. Separate models are also trained for the western, central, and eastern CONUS. Input predictors include fields associated with severe weather prediction, including CAPE, CIN, wind shear, and numerous other variables. Predictor inputs incorporate the simulated spatiotemporal evolution of these atmospheric fields throughout the forecast period in the vicinity of the forecast point. These trained RF models are applied to unseen inputs from April 2012 to December 2016, and their forecasts are evaluated alongside the equivalent SPC outlooks. The RFs objectively make statistical deductions about the relationships between various simulated atmospheric fields and observations of different severe weather phenomena that accord with the community’s physical understandings about severe weather forecasting. Using these quantified flow-dependent relationships, the RF outlooks are found to produce calibrated probabilistic forecasts that slightly underperform SPC outlooks at Day 1, but significantly outperform their outlooks at Days 2 and 3. In all cases, a blend of the SPC and RF outlooks significantly outperforms the SPC outlooks alone, suggesting that use of RFs can improve operational severe weather forecasting throughout the Day 1–3 period.

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