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Stanley G. Benjamin, Dezsö Dévényi, Stephen S. Weygandt, Kevin J. Brundage, John M. Brown, Georg A. Grell, Dongsoo Kim, Barry E. Schwartz, Tatiana G. Smirnova, Tracy Lorraine Smith, and Geoffrey S. Manikin

Abstract

The Rapid Update Cycle (RUC), an operational regional analysis–forecast system among the suite of models at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), is distinctive in two primary aspects: its hourly assimilation cycle and its use of a hybrid isentropic–sigma vertical coordinate. The use of a quasi-isentropic coordinate for the analysis increment allows the influence of observations to be adaptively shaped by the potential temperature structure around the observation, while the hourly update cycle allows for a very current analysis and short-range forecast. Herein, the RUC analysis framework in the hybrid coordinate is described, and some considerations for high-frequency cycling are discussed.

A 20-km 50-level hourly version of the RUC was implemented into operations at NCEP in April 2002. This followed an initial implementation with 60-km horizontal grid spacing and a 3-h cycle in 1994 and a major upgrade including 40-km horizontal grid spacing in 1998. Verification of forecasts from the latest 20-km version is presented using rawinsonde and surface observations. These verification statistics show that the hourly RUC assimilation cycle improves short-range forecasts (compared to longer-range forecasts valid at the same time) even down to the 1-h projection.

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David J. Stensrud, Ming Xue, Louis J. Wicker, Kevin E. Kelleher, Michael P. Foster, Joseph T. Schaefer, Russell S. Schneider, Stanley G. Benjamin, Stephen S. Weygandt, John T. Ferree, and Jason P. Tuell

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) National Weather Service (NWS) issues warnings for severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and flash floods because these phenomena are a threat to life and property. These warnings are presently based upon either visual confirmation of the phenomena or the observational detection of proxy signatures that are largely based upon radar observations. Convective-scale weather warnings are unique in the NWS, having little reliance on direct numerical forecast guidance. Because increasing severe thunderstorm, tornado, and flash-flood warning lead times are a key NOAA strategic mission goal designed to reduce the loss of life, injury, and economic costs of these high-impact weather phenomena, a new warning paradigm is needed in which numerical model forecasts play a larger role in convective-scale warnings. This new paradigm shifts the warning process from warn on detection to warn on forecast, and it has the potential to dramatically increase warning lead times.

A warn-on-forecast system is envisioned as a probabilistic convective-scale ensemble analysis and forecast system that assimilates in-storm observations into a high-resolution convection-resolving model ensemble. The building blocks needed for such a system are presently available, and initial research results clearly illustrate the value of radar observations to the production of accurate analyses of convective weather systems and improved forecasts. Although a number of scientific and cultural challenges still need to be overcome, the potential benefits are significant. A probabilistic convective-scale warn-on-forecast system is a vision worth pursuing.

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Stanley G. Benjamin, Eric P. James, Ming Hu, Curtis R. Alexander, Therese T. Ladwig, John M. Brown, Stephen S. Weygandt, David D. Turner, Patrick Minnis, William L. Smith Jr., and Andrew K. Heidinger

Abstract

Accurate cloud and precipitation forecasts are a fundamental component of short-range data assimilation/model prediction systems such as the NOAA 3-km High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) or the 13-km Rapid Refresh (RAP). To reduce cloud and precipitation spinup problems, a nonvariational assimilation technique for stratiform clouds was developed within the Gridpoint Statistical Interpolation (GSI) data assimilation system. One goal of this technique is retention of observed stratiform cloudy and clear 3D volumes into the subsequent model forecast. The cloud observations used include cloud-top data from satellite brightness temperatures, surface-based ceilometer data, and surface visibility. Quality control, expansion into spatial information content, and forward operators are described for each observation type. The projection of data from these observation types into an observation-based cloud-information 3D gridded field is accomplished via identification of cloudy, clear, and cloud-unknown 3D volumes. Updating of forecast background fields is accomplished through clearing and building of cloud water and cloud ice with associated modifications to water vapor and temperature. Impact of the cloud assimilation on short-range forecasts is assessed with a set of retrospective experiments in warm and cold seasons using the RAPv5 model. Short-range (1–9 h) forecast skill is improved in both seasons for cloud ceiling and visibility and for 2-m temperature in daytime and with mixed results for other measures. Two modifications were introduced and tested with success: use of prognostic subgrid-scale cloud fraction to condition cloud building (in response to a high bias) and removal of a WRF-based rebalancing.

Open access
Stanley G. Benjamin, Stephen S. Weygandt, John M. Brown, Ming Hu, Curtis R. Alexander, Tatiana G. Smirnova, Joseph B. Olson, Eric P. James, David C. Dowell, Georg A. Grell, Haidao Lin, Steven E. Peckham, Tracy Lorraine Smith, William R. Moninger, Jaymes S. Kenyon, and Geoffrey S. Manikin

Abstract

The Rapid Refresh (RAP), an hourly updated assimilation and model forecast system, replaced the Rapid Update Cycle (RUC) as an operational regional analysis and forecast system among the suite of models at the NOAA/National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) in 2012. The need for an effective hourly updated assimilation and modeling system for the United States for situational awareness and related decision-making has continued to increase for various applications including aviation (and transportation in general), severe weather, and energy. The RAP is distinct from the previous RUC in three primary aspects: a larger geographical domain (covering North America), use of the community-based Advanced Research version of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model (ARW) replacing the RUC forecast model, and use of the Gridpoint Statistical Interpolation analysis system (GSI) instead of the RUC three-dimensional variational data assimilation (3DVar). As part of the RAP development, modifications have been made to the community ARW model (especially in model physics) and GSI assimilation systems, some based on previous model and assimilation design innovations developed initially with the RUC. Upper-air comparison is included for forecast verification against both rawinsondes and aircraft reports, the latter allowing hourly verification. In general, the RAP produces superior forecasts to those from the RUC, and its skill has continued to increase from 2012 up to RAP version 3 as of 2015. In addition, the RAP can improve on persistence forecasts for the 1–3-h forecast range for surface, upper-air, and ceiling forecasts.

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David C. Dowell, Curtis R. Alexander, Eric P. James, Stephen S. Weygandt, Stanley G. Benjamin, Geoffrey S. Manikin, Benjamin T. Blake, John M. Brown, Joseph B. Olson, Ming Hu, Tatiana G. Smirnova, Terra Ladwig, Jaymes S. Kenyon, Ravan Ahmadov, David D. Turner, Jeffrey D. Duda, and Trevor I. Alcott

Abstract

The High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) is a convection-allowing implementation of the Advanced Research version of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF-ARW) Model with hourly data assimilation that covers the conterminous United States and Alaska and runs in real time at the NOAA/National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). Implemented operationally at NOAA/NCEP in 2014, the HRRR features 3-km horizontal grid spacing and frequent forecasts (hourly for CONUS and 3-hourly for Alaska). HRRR initialization is designed for optimal short-range forecast skill with a particular focus on the evolution of precipitating systems. Key components of the initialization are radar-reflectivity data assimilation, hybrid ensemble-variational assimilation of conventional weather observations, and a cloud analysis to initialize stratiform cloud layers. From this initial state, HRRR forecasts are produced out to 18 h every hour, and out to 48 h every 6 h, with boundary conditions provided by the Rapid Refresh system. Between 2014 and 2020, HRRR development was focused on reducing model bias errors and improving forecast realism and accuracy. Improved representation of the planetary boundary layer, subgrid-scale clouds, and land surface contributed extensively to overall HRRR improvements. The final version of the HRRR (HRRRv4), implemented in late 2020, also features hybrid data assimilation using flow-dependent covariances from a 3-km, 36-member ensemble (“HRRRDAS”) with explicit convective storms. HRRRv4 also includes prediction of wildfire smoke plumes. The HRRR provides a baseline capability for evaluating NOAA’s next-generation Rapid Refresh Forecast System, now under development.

Significance Statement

NOAA’s operational hourly updating, convection-allowing model, the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR), is a key tool for short-range weather forecasting and situational awareness. Improvements in assimilation of weather observations, as well as in physics parameterizations, have led to improvements in simulated radar reflectivity and quantitative precipitation forecasts since the initial implementation of HRRR in September 2014. Other targeted development has focused on improved representation of the diurnal cycle of the planetary boundary layer, resulting in improved near-surface temperature and humidity forecasts. Additional physics and data assimilation changes have led to improved treatment of the development and erosion of low-level clouds, including subgrid-scale clouds. The final version of HRRR features storm-scale ensemble data assimilation and explicit prediction of wildfire smoke plumes.

Open access