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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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Brett Roberts
,
Israel L. Jirak
,
Adam J. Clark
,
Steven J. Weiss
, and
John S. Kain

Abstract

Since the early 2000s, growing computing resources for numerical weather prediction (NWP) and scientific advances enabled development and testing of experimental, real-time deterministic convection-allowing models (CAMs). By the late 2000s, continued advancements spurred development of CAM ensemble forecast systems, through which a broad range of successful forecasting applications have been demonstrated. This work has prepared the National Weather Service (NWS) for practical usage of the High Resolution Ensemble Forecast (HREF) system, which was implemented operationally in November 2017. Historically, methods for postprocessing and visualizing products from regional and global ensemble prediction systems (e.g., ensemble means and spaghetti plots) have been applied to fields that provide information on mesoscale to synoptic-scale processes. However, much of the value from CAMs is derived from the explicit simulation of deep convection and associated storm-attribute fields like updraft helicity and simulated reflectivity. Thus, fully exploiting CAM ensembles for forecasting applications has required the development of fundamentally new data extraction, postprocessing, and visualization strategies. In the process, challenges imposed by the immense data volume inherent to these systems required new approaches when considering diverse factors like forecaster interpretation and computational expense. In this article, we review the current state of postprocessing and visualization for CAM ensembles, with a particular focus on forecast applications for severe convective hazards that have been evaluated within NOAA’s Hazardous Weather Testbed. The HREF web viewer implemented at the NWS Storm Prediction Center (SPC) is presented as a prototype for deploying these techniques in real time on a flexible and widely accessible platform.

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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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Tsing-Chang Chen
,
Shih-Yu Wang
,
Ming-Cheng Yen
, and
Adam J. Clark

Abstract

It has been observed that the percentage of tropical cyclones originating from easterly waves is much higher in the North Atlantic (∼60%) than in the western North Pacific (10%–20%). This disparity between the two ocean basins exists because the majority (71%) of tropical cyclogeneses in the western North Pacific occur in the favorable synoptic environments evolved from monsoon gyres. Because the North Atlantic does not have a monsoon trough similar to the western North Pacific that stimulates monsoon gyre formation, a much larger portion of tropical cyclogeneses than in the western North Pacific are caused directly by easterly waves.

This study also analyzed the percentage of easterly waves that form tropical cyclones in the western North Pacific. By carefully separating easterly waves from the lower-tropospheric disturbances generated by upper-level vortices that originate from the tropical upper-tropospheric trough (TUTT), it is observed that 25% of easterly waves form tropical cyclones in this region. Because TUTT-induced lower-tropospheric disturbances often become embedded in the trade easterlies and resemble easterly waves, they have likely been mistakenly identified as easterly waves. Inclusion of these “false” easterly waves in the “true” easterly wave population would result in an underestimation of the percentage of easterly waves that form tropical cyclones, because the TUTT-induced disturbances rarely stimulate tropical cyclogenesis.

However, an analysis of monsoon gyre formation mechanisms over the western North Pacific reveals that 82% of monsoon gyres develop through a monsoon trough–easterly wave interaction. Thus, it can be inferred that 58% (i.e., 82% × 71%) of tropical cyclones in this region are an indirect result of easterly waves. Including the percentage of tropical cyclones that form directly from easterly waves (∼25%), it is found that tropical cyclones formed directly and indirectly from easterly waves account for over 80% of tropical cyclogeneses in the western North Pacific. This is more than the percentage that has been documented by previous studies in the North Atlantic.

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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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Adam J. Clark
,
Andrew MacKenzie
,
Amy McGovern
,
Valliappa Lakshmanan
, and
Rodger A. Brown

Abstract

Moisture boundaries, or drylines, are common over the southern U.S. high plains and are one of the most important airmass boundaries for convective initiation over this region. In favorable environments, drylines can initiate storms that produce strong and violent tornadoes, large hail, lightning, and heavy rainfall. Despite their importance, there are few studies documenting climatological dryline location and frequency, or performing systematic dryline forecast evaluation, which likely stems from difficulties in objectively identifying drylines over large datasets. Previous studies have employed tedious manual identification procedures. This study aims to streamline dryline identification by developing an automated, multiparameter algorithm, which applies image-processing and pattern recognition techniques to various meteorological fields and their gradients to identify drylines. The algorithm is applied to five years of high-resolution 24-h forecasts from Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model simulations valid April–June 2007–11. Manually identified dryline positions, which were available from a previous study using the same dataset, are used as truth to evaluate the algorithm performance. Generally, the algorithm performed very well. High probability of detection (POD) scores indicated that the majority of drylines were identified by the method. However, a relatively high false alarm ratio (FAR) was also found, indicating that a large number of nondryline features were also identified. Preliminary use of random forests (a machine learning technique) significantly decreased the FAR, while minimally impacting the POD. The algorithm lays the groundwork for applications including model evaluation and operational forecasting, and should enable efficient analysis of drylines from very large datasets.

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Katie A. Wilson
,
Burkely T. Gallo
,
Patrick Skinner
,
Adam Clark
,
Pamela Heinselman
, and
Jessica J. Choate

Abstract

Convection-allowing model ensemble guidance, such as that provided by the Warn-on-Forecast System (WoFS), is designed to provide predictions of individual thunderstorm hazards within the next 0–6 h. The WoFS web viewer provides a large suite of storm and environmental attribute products, but the applicability of these products to the National Weather Service forecast process has not been objectively documented. Therefore, this study describes an experimental forecasting task designed to investigate what WoFS products forecasters accessed and how they accessed them for a total of 26 cases (comprising 13 weather events, each worked by two forecasters). Analysis of web access log data revealed that, in all 26 cases, product accesses were dominated in the reflectivity, rotation, hail, and surface wind categories. However, the number of different product types viewed and the number of transitions between products varied in each case. Therefore, the Levenshtein (edit distance) method was used to compute similarity scores across all 26 cases, which helped to identify what it meant for relatively similar versus dissimilar navigation of WoFS products. The Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient R results found that forecasters working the same weather event had higher similarity scores for events that produced more tornado reports and for events in which forecasters had higher performance scores. The findings from this study will influence subsequent efforts for further improving WoFS products and developing an efficient and effective user interface for operational applications.

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Adam J. Clark
,
Randy G. Bullock
,
Tara L. Jensen
,
Ming Xue
, and
Fanyou Kong

Abstract

Meaningful verification and evaluation of convection-allowing models requires approaches that do not rely on point-to-point matches of forecast and observed fields. In this study, one such approach—a beta version of the Method for Object-Based Diagnostic Evaluation (MODE) that incorporates the time dimension [known as MODE time-domain (MODE-TD)]—was applied to 30-h precipitation forecasts from four 4-km grid-spacing members of the 2010 Storm-Scale Ensemble Forecast system with different microphysics parameterizations. Including time in MODE-TD provides information on rainfall system evolution like lifetime, timing of initiation and dissipation, and translation.

The simulations depicted the spatial distribution of time-domain precipitation objects across the United States quite well. However, all simulations overpredicted the number of objects, with the Thompson microphysics scheme overpredicting the most and the Morrison method the least. For the smallest smoothing radius and rainfall threshold used to define objects [8 km and 0.10 in. (1 in. = 2.54 cm), respectively], the most common object duration was 3 h in both models and observations. With an increased smoothing radius and rainfall threshold, the most common duration became shorter. The simulations depicted the diurnal cycle of object frequencies well, but overpredicted object frequencies uniformly across all forecast hours. The simulations had spurious maxima in initiating objects at the beginning of the forecast and a corresponding spurious maximum in dissipating objects slightly later. Examining average object velocities, a slow bias was found in the simulations, which was most pronounced in the Thompson member. These findings should aid users and developers of convection-allowing models and motivate future work utilizing time-domain methods for verifying high-resolution forecasts.

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