Recent studies have demonstrated advances in the analysis and prediction of severe thunderstorms and other weather hazards by assimilating infrared (IR) all-sky radiances into numerical weather prediction models using advanced ensemble-based techniques. It remains an open question how many of these advances are due to improvements in the radiance observations themselves, especially when compared with radiance observations from preceding satellite imagers. This study investigates the improvements gained by assimilation of IR all-sky radiances from the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) onboard the GOES-16 satellite compared to those from its predecessor imager. Results show that all aspects of the improvements in ABI compared with its predecessor imager – finer spatial resolution, shorter scanning intervals, and more channels covering a wider range of the spectrum – contribute to more accurate ensemble analyses and forecasts of the targeted severe thunderstorm event, but in different ways. The clear-sky regions within the assimilated all-sky radiance fields have a particularly beneficial influence on the moisture fields. Results also show that assimilating different IR channels can lead to oppositely signed increments in the moisture fields, a byproduct of inaccurate covariances at large distances resulting from sampling errors. These findings pose both challenges and opportunities in identifying appropriate vertical localizations and IR channel combinations to produce the best possible analyses in support of severe weather forecasting.

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