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Nusrat Yussouf
,
John S. Kain
, and
Adam J. Clark

Abstract

A continuous-update-cycle storm-scale ensemble data assimilation (DA) and prediction system using the ARW model and DART software is used to generate retrospective 0–6-h ensemble forecasts of the 31 May 2013 tornado and flash flood event over central Oklahoma, with a focus on the prediction of heavy rainfall. Results indicate that the model-predicted probabilities of strong low-level mesocyclones correspond well with the locations of observed mesocyclones and with the observed damage track. The ensemble-mean quantitative precipitation forecast (QPF) from the radar DA experiments match NCEP’s stage IV analyses reasonably well in terms of location and amount of rainfall, particularly during the 0–3-h forecast period. In contrast, significant displacement errors and lower rainfall totals are evident in a control experiment that withholds radar data during the DA. The ensemble-derived probabilistic QPF (PQPF) from the radar DA experiment is more skillful than the PQPF from the no_radar experiment, based on visual inspection and probabilistic verification metrics. A novel object-based storm-tracking algorithm provides additional insight, suggesting that explicit assimilation and 1–2-h prediction of the dominant supercell is remarkably skillful in the radar experiment. The skill in both experiments is substantially higher during the 0–3-h forecast period than in the 3–6-h period. Furthermore, the difference in skill between the two forecasts decreases sharply during the latter period, indicating that the impact of radar DA is greatest during early forecast hours. Overall, the results demonstrate the potential for a frequently updated, high-resolution ensemble system to extend probabilistic low-level mesocyclone and flash flood forecast lead times and improve accuracy of convective precipitation nowcasting.

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Burkely T. Gallo
,
Adam J. Clark
, and
Scott R. Dembek
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Eric D. Loken
,
Adam J. Clark
,
Ming Xue
, and
Fanyou Kong

Abstract

Spread and skill of mixed- and single-physics convection-allowing ensemble forecasts that share the same set of perturbed initial and lateral boundary conditions are investigated at a variety of spatial scales. Forecast spread is assessed for 2-m temperature, 2-m dewpoint, 500-hPa geopotential height, and hourly accumulated precipitation both before and after a bias-correction procedure is applied. Time series indicate that the mixed-physics ensemble forecasts generally have greater variance than comparable single-physics forecasts. While the differences tend to be small, they are greatest at the smallest spatial scales and when the ensembles are not calibrated for bias. Although differences between the mixed- and single-physics ensemble variances are smaller for the larger spatial scales, variance ratios suggest that the mixed-physics ensemble generates more spread relative to the single-physics ensemble at larger spatial scales. Forecast skill is evaluated for 2-m temperature, dewpoint temperature, and bias-corrected 6-h accumulated precipitation. The mixed-physics ensemble generally has lower 2-m temperature and dewpoint root-mean-square error (RMSE) compared to the single-physics ensemble. However, little difference in skill or reliability is found between the mixed- and single-physics bias-corrected precipitation forecasts. Overall, given that mixed- and single-physics ensembles have similar spread and skill, developers may prefer to implement single- as opposed to mixed-physics convection-allowing ensembles in future operational systems, while accounting for model error using stochastic methods.

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Eric D. Loken
,
Adam J. Clark
, and
Christopher D. Karstens

Abstract

Extracting explicit severe weather forecast guidance from convection-allowing ensembles (CAEs) is challenging since CAEs cannot directly simulate individual severe weather hazards. Currently, CAE-based severe weather probabilities must be inferred from one or more storm-related variables, which may require extensive calibration and/or contain limited information. Machine learning (ML) offers a way to obtain severe weather forecast probabilities from CAEs by relating CAE forecast variables to observed severe weather reports. This paper develops and verifies a random forest (RF)-based ML method for creating day 1 (1200–1200 UTC) severe weather hazard probabilities and categorical outlooks based on 0000 UTC Storm-Scale Ensemble of Opportunity (SSEO) forecast data and observed Storm Prediction Center (SPC) storm reports. RF forecast probabilities are compared against severe weather forecasts from calibrated SSEO 2–5-km updraft helicity (UH) forecasts and SPC convective outlooks issued at 0600 UTC. Continuous RF probabilities routinely have the highest Brier skill scores (BSSs), regardless of whether the forecasts are evaluated over the full domain or regional/seasonal subsets. Even when RF probabilities are truncated at the probability levels issued by the SPC, the RF forecasts often have BSSs better than or comparable to corresponding UH and SPC forecasts. Relative to the UH and SPC forecasts, the RF approach performs best for severe wind and hail prediction during the spring and summer (i.e., March–August). Overall, it is concluded that the RF method presented here provides skillful, reliable CAE-derived severe weather probabilities that may be useful to severe weather forecasters and decision-makers.

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Eric D. Loken
,
Adam J. Clark
, and
Amy McGovern

Abstract

Recent research has shown that random forests (RFs) can create skillful probabilistic severe weather hazard forecasts from numerical weather prediction (NWP) ensemble data. However, it remains unclear how RFs use NWP data and how predictors should be generated from NWP ensembles. This paper compares two methods for creating RFs for next-day severe weather prediction using simulated forecast data from the convection-allowing High-Resolution Ensemble Forecast System, version 2.1 (HREFv2.1). The first method uses predictors from individual ensemble members (IM) at the point of prediction, while the second uses ensemble mean (EM) predictors at multiple spatial points. IM and EM RFs are trained with all predictors as well as predictor subsets, and the Python module tree interpreter (TI) is used to assess RF variable importance and the relationships learned by the RFs. Results show that EM RFs have better objective skill compared to similarly configured IM RFs for all hazards, presumably because EM predictors contain less noise. In both IM and EM RFs, storm variables are found to be most important, followed by index and environment variables. Interestingly, RFs created from storm and index variables tend to produce forecasts with greater or equal skill than those from the all-predictor RFs. TI analysis shows that the RFs emphasize different predictors for different hazards in a way that makes physical sense. Further, TI shows that RFs create calibrated hazard probabilities based on complex, multivariate relationships that go well beyond thresholding 2–5-km updraft helicity.

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Adam J. Clark
,
William A. Gallus Jr.
,
Ming Xue
, and
Fanyou Kong

Abstract

An experiment has been designed to evaluate and compare precipitation forecasts from a 5-member, 4-km grid-spacing (ENS4) and a 15-member, 20-km grid-spacing (ENS20) Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model ensemble, which cover a similar domain over the central United States. The ensemble forecasts are initialized at 2100 UTC on 23 different dates and cover forecast lead times up to 33 h. Previous work has demonstrated that simulations using convection-allowing resolution (CAR; dx ∼ 4 km) have a better representation of the spatial and temporal statistical properties of convective precipitation than coarser models using convective parameterizations. In addition, higher resolution should lead to greater ensemble spread as smaller scales of motion are resolved. Thus, CAR ensembles should provide more accurate and reliable probabilistic forecasts than parameterized-convection resolution (PCR) ensembles.

Computation of various precipitation skill metrics for probabilistic and deterministic forecasts reveals that ENS4 generally provides more accurate precipitation forecasts than ENS20, with the differences tending to be statistically significant for precipitation thresholds above 0.25 in. at forecast lead times of 9–21 h (0600–1800 UTC) for all accumulation intervals analyzed (1, 3, and 6 h). In addition, an analysis of rank histograms and statistical consistency reveals that faster error growth in ENS4 eventually leads to more reliable precipitation forecasts in ENS4 than in ENS20. For the cases examined, these results imply that the skill gained by increasing to CAR outweighs the skill lost by decreasing the ensemble size. Thus, when computational capabilities become available, it will be highly desirable to increase the ensemble resolution from PCR to CAR, even if the size of the ensemble has to be reduced.

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Adam J. Clark
,
William A. Gallus Jr.
,
Ming Xue
, and
Fanyou Kong

Abstract

An analysis of a regional severe weather outbreak that was related to a mesoscale convective vortex (MCV) is performed. The MCV-spawning mesoscale convection system (MCS) formed in northwest Kansas along the southern periphery of a large cutoff 500-hPa low centered over western South Dakota. As the MCS propagated into eastern Kansas during the early morning of 1 June 2007, an MCV that became evident from multiple data sources [e.g., Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) network, visible satellite imagery, wind-profiler data, Rapid Update Cycle 1-hourly analyses] tracked through northwest Missouri and central Iowa and manifested itself as a well-defined midlevel short-wave trough. Downstream of the MCV in southeast Iowa and northwest Illinois, southwesterly 500-hPa winds increased to around 25 m s−1 over an area with southeasterly surface winds and 500–1500 J kg−1 of surface-based convective available potential energy (CAPE), creating a favorable environment for severe weather. In the favorable region, multiple tornadoes occurred, including one rated as a category 3 storm on the enhanced Fujita scale (EF3) that caused considerable damage. In the analysis, emphasis is placed on the role of the MCV in leading to a favorable environment for severe weather. In addition, convection-allowing forecasts of the MCV and associated environmental conditions from the 10-member Storm-Scale Ensemble Forecast (SSEF) system produced for the 2007 NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed Spring Experiment are compared to those from a similarly configured, but coarser, 30-member convection-parameterizing ensemble. It was found that forecasts of the MCV track and associated environmental conditions (e.g., midlevel winds, low-level wind shear, and instability) were much better in the convection-allowing ensemble. Errors in the MCV track from convection-parameterizing members likely resulted from westward displacement errors in the incipient MCS. Furthermore, poor depiction of MCV structure and maintenance in convection-parameterizing members, which was diagnosed through a vorticity budget analysis, likely led to the relatively poor forecasts of the associated environmental conditions. The results appear to be very encouraging for convection-allowing ensembles, especially when environmental conditions lead to a high degree of predictability for MCSs, which appeared to be the case for this particular event.

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Adam J. Clark
,
William A. Gallus Jr.
, and
Morris L. Weisman

Abstract

Since 2003 the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has been running various experimental convection-allowing configurations of the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) for domains covering a large portion of the central United States during the warm season (April–July). In this study, the skill of 3-hourly accumulated precipitation forecasts from a large sample of these convection-allowing simulations conducted during 2004–05 and 2007–08 is compared to that from operational North American Mesoscale (NAM) model forecasts using a neighborhood-based equitable threat score (ETS). Separate analyses were conducted for simulations run before and after the implementation in 2007 of positive-definite (PD) moisture transport for the NCAR-WRF simulations. The neighborhood-based ETS (denoted 〈ETS〉 r ) relaxes the criteria for “hits” (i.e., correct forecasts) by considering grid points within a specified radius r. It is shown that 〈ETS〉 r is more useful than the traditional ETS because 〈ETS〉 r can be used to diagnose differences in precipitation forecast skill between different models as a function of spatial scale, whereas the traditional ETS only considers the spatial scale of the verification grid. It was found that differences in 〈ETS〉 r between NCAR-WRF and NAM generally increased with increasing r, with NCAR-WRF having higher scores. Examining time series of 〈ETS〉 r for r = 100 and r = 0 km (which simply reduces to the “traditional” ETS), statistically significant differences between NCAR-WRF and NAM were found at many forecast lead times for 〈ETS〉100 but only a few times for 〈ETS〉0. Larger and more statistically significant differences occurred with the 2007–08 cases relative to the 2004–05 cases. Because of differences in model configurations and dominant large-scale weather regimes, a more controlled experiment would have been needed to diagnose the reason for the larger differences that occurred with the 2007–08 cases. Finally, a compositing technique was used to diagnose the differences in the spatial distribution of the forecasts. This technique implied westward displacement errors for NAM model forecasts in both sets of cases and in NCAR-WRF model forecasts for the 2007–08 cases. Generally, the results are encouraging because they imply that advantages in convection-allowing relative to convection-parameterizing simulations noted in recent studies are reflected in an objective neighborhood-based metric.

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Adam J. Clark
,
Christopher J. Schaffer
,
William A. Gallus Jr.
, and
Kaj Johnson-O’Mara

Abstract

Using quasigeostrophic arguments and numerical simulations, past works have developed conceptual models of vertical circulations induced by linear and curved jet streaks. Because jet-induced vertical motion could influence the development of severe weather, these conceptual models, especially the “four quadrant” model for linear jet streaks, are often applied by operational forecasters. The present study examines the climatology of tornado, hail, and severe wind reports relative to upper-level jet streaks, along with temporal trends in storm report frequencies and changes in report distributions for different jet streak directions. In addition, composite fields (e.g., divergence, vertical velocity) are analyzed for jet streak regions to examine whether the fields correspond to what is expected from conceptual models of curved or linear jet streaks, and whether the fields help explain the storm report distributions.

During the period analyzed, 84% of storm reports were associated with upper-level jet streaks, with June–August having the lowest percentages. In March and April the left-exit quadrant had the most storm reports, while after April the right-entrance quadrant was associated with the most reports. Composites revealed that tornado and hail reports are concentrated in the jet-exit region along the major jet axis and in the right-entrance quadrant. Wind reports have similar maxima, but the right-entrance quadrant maximum is more pronounced. Upper-level composite divergence fields generally correspond to what would be expected from the four-quadrant model, but differences in the magnitudes of the vertical velocity between the quadrants and locations of divergent–convergent centers may have resulted from jet curvature. The maxima in the storm report distributions are not well collocated with the maxima in the upper-level divergence fields, but are much better collocated with low-level convergence maxima that exist in both exit regions and extend into the right-entrance region. Composites of divergence–convergence with linear, cyclonic, and anticyclonic jet streaks also generally matched conceptual models for curved jet streaks, and it was found that wind reports have a notable maximum in the right-entrance quadrant of both anticyclonic and linear jet streaks. Finally, it was found that the upper-level divergence and vertical velocity in all jet-quadrants have a tendency to decrease as jet streak directions shift from SSW to NNW.

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Brice E. Coffer
,
Lindsay C. Maudlin
,
Peter G. Veals
, and
Adam J. Clark

Abstract

This study evaluates 24-h forecasts of dryline position from an experimental 4-km grid-spacing version of the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) run daily at the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL), as well as the 12-km grid-spacing North America Mesoscale Model (NAM) run operationally by the Environmental Modeling Center of NCEP. For both models, 0000 UTC initializations are examined, and for verification 0000 UTC Rapid Update Cycle (RUC) analyses are used. For the period 1 April–30 June 2007–11, 116 cases containing drylines in all three datasets were identified using a manual procedure that considered specific humidity gradient magnitude, temperature, and 10-m wind. For the 24-h NAM forecasts, no systematic east–west dryline placement errors were found, and the majority of the east–west errors fell within the range ±0.5° longitude. The lack of a systematic bias was generally present across all subgroups of cases categorized according to month, weather pattern, and year. In contrast, a systematic eastward bias was found in 24-h NSSL-WRF forecasts, which was consistent across all subgroups of cases. The eastward biases seemed to be largest for the subgroups that favored “active” drylines (i.e., those associated with a progressive synoptic-scale weather system) as opposed to “quiescent” drylines that tend to be present with weaker tropospheric flow and have eastward movement dominated by vertical mixing processes in the boundary layer.

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