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Elizabeth E. Ebert, Michael J. Manton, Philip A. Arkin, Richard J. Allam, Gary E. Holpin, and Arnold Gruber

Three algorithm intercomparison experiments have recently been conducted as part of the Global Precipitation Climatology Project with the goal of (a) assessing the skill of current satellite rainfall algorithms, (b) understanding the differences between them, and (c) moving toward improved algorithms. The results of these experiments are summarized and intercompared in this paper.

It was found that the skill of satellite rainfall algorithms depends on the regime being analyzed, with algorithms producing very good results in the tropical western Pacific and over Japan and its surrounding waters during summer, but relatively poor rainfall estimates over western Europe during late winter. Monthly rainfall was estimated most accurately by algorithms using geostationary infrared data, but algorithms using polar data [Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer and Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I)] were also able to produce good monthly rainfall estimates when data from two satellites were available. In most cases, SSM/I algorithms showed significantly greater skill than IR-based algorithms in estimating instantaneous rain rates.

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Jeremy S. Grams, Willam A. Gallus Jr., Steven E. Koch, Linda S. Wharton, Andrew Loughe, and Elizabeth E. Ebert

Abstract

The Ebert–McBride technique (EMT) is an entity-oriented method useful for quantitative precipitation verification. The EMT was modified to optimize its ability to identify contiguous rain areas (CRAs) during the 2002 International H2O Project (IHOP). This technique was then used to identify systematic sources of error as a function of observed convective system morphology in three 12-km model simulations run over the IHOP domain: Eta, the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–NCAR Mesoscale Model (MM5), and the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF). The EMT was fine-tuned to optimize the pattern matching of forecasts to observations for the scales of precipitation systems observed during IHOP. To investigate several error measures provided by the EMT, a detailed morphological analysis of observed systems was performed using radar data for all CRAs identified in the IHOP domain. The modified EMT suggests that the Eta Model produced average rain rates, peak rainfall amounts, and total rain volumes that were lower than observed for almost all types of convective systems, likely because of its production of overly smoothed and low-variability quantitative precipitation forecasts. The MM5 and WRF typically produced average rain rates and peak rainfall amounts that were larger than observed in most linear convective systems. However, the rain volume for these models was too low for almost all types of convective systems, implying a sizeable underestimate in areal coverage. All three models forecast rainfall too far northwest for linear systems. The results for the WRF and MM5 are consistent with previous observations of mesoscale models run with explicit microphysics and no convective parameterization scheme, suggesting systematic problems with the prediction of mesoscale convective system cold pool dynamics.

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Elizabeth E. Ebert, Laurence J. Wilson, Barbara G. Brown, Pertti Nurmi, Harold E. Brooks, John Bally, and Matthias Jaeneke

Abstract

The verification phase of the World Weather Research Programme (WWRP) Sydney 2000 Forecast Demonstration Project (FDP) was intended to measure the skill of the participating nowcast algorithms in predicting the location of convection, rainfall rate and occurrence, wind speed and direction, severe thunderstorm wind gusts, and hail location and size. An additional question of interest was whether forecasters could improve the quality of the nowcasts compared to the FDP products alone.

The nowcasts were verified using a variety of statistical techniques. Observational data came from radar reflectivity and rainfall analyses, a network of rain gauges, and human (spotter) observations. The verification results showed that the cell tracking algorithms predicted the location of the strongest cells with a mean error of about 15–30 km for a 1-h forecast, and were usually more accurate than an extrapolation (Lagrangian persistence) forecast. Mean location errors for the area tracking schemes were on the order of 20 km.

Almost all of the algorithms successfully predicted the frequency of rain throughout the forecast period, although most underestimated the frequency of high rain rates. The skill in predicting rain occurrence decreased very quickly into the forecast period. In particular, the algorithms could not predict the precise location of heavy rain beyond the first 10–20 min. Using radar analyses as verification, the algorithms' spatial forecasts were consistently more skillful than simple persistence. However, when verified against rain gauge observations at point locations, the algorithms had difficulty beating persistence, mainly due to differences in spatial and temporal resolution.

Only one algorithm attempted to forecast gust fronts. The results for a limited sample showed a mean absolute error of 7 km h−1 and mean bias of 3 km h−1 in the speed of the gust fronts during the FDP. The errors in sea-breeze front forecasts were half as large, with essentially no bias. Verification of the hail associated with the 3 November tornadic storm showed that the two algorithms that estimated hail size and occurrence successfully diagnosed the onset and cessation of the hail to within 30 min of the reported sightings. The time evolution of hail size was reasonably well captured by the algorithms, and the predicted mean and maximum hail diameters were consistent with the observations.

The Thunderstorm Interactive Forecast System (TIFS) allowed forecasters to modify the output of the cell tracking nowcasts, primarily using it to remove cells that were insignificant or diagnosed with incorrect motion. This manual filtering resulted in markedly reduced mean cell position errors when compared to the unfiltered forecasts. However, when forecasters attempted to adjust the storm tracks for a small number of well-defined intense cells, the position errors increased slightly, suggesting that in such cases the objective guidance is probably the best estimate of storm motion.

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Elizabeth E. Ebert, Michael Turk, Sheldon J. Kusselson, Jianbin Yang, Matthew Seybold, Peter R. Keehn, and Robert J. Kuligowski

Abstract

Ensemble tropical rainfall potential (eTRaP) has been developed to improve short-range forecasts of heavy rainfall in tropical cyclones. Evolving from the tropical rainfall potential (TRaP), a 24-h rain forecast based on estimated rain rates from microwave sensors aboard polar-orbiting satellites, eTRaP combines all single-pass TRaPs generated within ±3 h of 0000, 0600, 1200, and 1800 UTC to form a simple ensemble. This approach addresses uncertainties in satellite-derived rain rates and spatial rain structures by using estimates from different sensors observing the cyclone at different times. Quantitative precipitation forecasts (QPFs) are produced from the ensemble mean field using a probability matching approach to recalibrate the rain-rate distribution against the ensemble members (e.g., input TRaP forecasts) themselves. ETRaPs also provide probabilistic forecasts of heavy rain, which are potentially of enormous benefit to decision makers. Verification of eTRaP forecasts for 16 Atlantic hurricanes making landfall in the United States between 2004 and 2008 shows that the eTRaP rain amounts are more accurate than single-sensor TRaPs. The probabilistic forecasts have useful skill, but the probabilities should be interpreted within a spatial context. A novel concept of a “radius of uncertainty” compensates for the influence of location error in the probability forecasts. The eTRaPs are produced in near–real time for all named tropical storms and cyclones around the globe. They can be viewed online (http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/PS/TROP/etrap.html) and are available in digital form to users.

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Manfred Dorninger, Eric Gilleland, Barbara Casati, Marion P. Mittermaier, Elizabeth E. Ebert, Barbara G. Brown, and Laurence J. Wilson

Abstract

Recent advancements in numerical weather prediction (NWP) and the enhancement of model resolution have created the need for more robust and informative verification methods. In response to these needs, a plethora of spatial verification approaches have been developed in the past two decades. A spatial verification method intercomparison was established in 2007 with the aim of gaining a better understanding of the abilities of the new spatial verification methods to diagnose different types of forecast errors. The project focused on prescribed errors for quantitative precipitation forecasts over the central United States. The intercomparison led to a classification of spatial verification methods and a cataloging of their diagnostic capabilities, providing useful guidance to end users, model developers, and verification scientists. A decade later, NWP systems have continued to increase in resolution, including advances in high-resolution ensembles. This article describes the setup of a second phase of the verification intercomparison, called the Mesoscale Verification Intercomparison over Complex Terrain (MesoVICT). MesoVICT focuses on the application, capability, and enhancement of spatial verification methods to deterministic and ensemble forecasts of precipitation, wind, and temperature over complex terrain. Importantly, this phase also explores the issue of analysis uncertainty through the use of an ensemble of meteorological analyses.

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Paul A. Kucera, Elizabeth E. Ebert, F. Joseph Turk, Vincenzo Levizzani, Dalia Kirschbaum, Francisco J. Tapiador, Alexander Loew, and M. Borsche

Advances to space-based observing systems and data processing techniques have made precipitation datasets quickly and easily available via various data portals and widely used in Earth sciences. The increasingly lengthy time span of space-based precipitation data records has enabled cross-discipline investigations and applications that would otherwise not be possible, revealing discoveries related to hydrological and land processes, climate, atmospheric composition, and ocean freshwater budget and proving a vital element in addressing societal issues. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how the availability and continuity of precipitation data records from recent and upcoming space missions is transforming the ways that scientific and societal issues are addressed, in ways that would not be otherwise possible.

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James W. Wilson, Elizabeth E. Ebert, Thomas R. Saxen, Rita D. Roberts, Cynthia K. Mueller, Michael Sleigh, Clive E. Pierce, and Alan Seed

Abstract

Five of the nowcasting systems that were available during the Sydney 2000 Forecast Demonstration Project (FDP) were selected for evaluation. These systems, from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, had the capability to nowcast the location and, with one exception, the intensity of convective storms. Six of the most significant convective storm cases from the 3-month FDP were selected for evaluating the performance of these state-of-the-art nowcasting systems, which extrapolated storms using a variety of methods, including cell and area tracking, model winds, and sounding winds. Three of the systems had the ability to forecast the initiation and growth of storms. Nowcasts for 30 and 60 min were evaluated, and it was found that even for such short time periods the skill of the extrapolation-only systems was often very low. Extrapolation techniques that allowed for differential motion performed slightly better, since high-impact storms often have motions different than surrounding storms. The ability to forecast initiation, growth, and dissipation is in its infancy. However, it was demonstrated that significant improvement in forecast accuracy was obtained for several of these cases when the locations of boundary layer convergence lines (sea breeze and gust fronts) were used in the nowcasts.

Based on the experiences during the FDP, and in forecast offices in the United States, a discussion is provided of the overall status of nowcasting convective storms. In addition, proposed future directions are discussed concerning the specificity of nowcast products, experimental test beds, and additional observations and research required.

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Tony Bannister, Elizabeth E. Ebert, Ted Williams, Philip Douglas, Alan Wain, Maree Carroll, Jeremy Silver, Ed Newbigin, Edwin R. Lampugnani, Nicole Hughes, Clare Looker, Vanora Mulvenna, Danny Csutoros, Penelope J. Jones, Janet M. Davies, Cenk Suphioglu, Paul J. Beggs, Kathryn M. Emmerson, Alfredo Huete, and Ha Nguyen

Abstract

In November 2016, an unprecedented epidemic thunderstorm asthma event in Victoria, Australia, resulted in many thousands of people developing breathing difficulties in a very short period of time, including 10 deaths, and created extreme demand across the Victorian health services. To better prepare for future events, a pilot forecasting system for epidemic thunderstorm asthma (ETSA) risk has been developed for Victoria. The system uses a categorical risk-based approach, combining operational forecasting of gusty winds in severe thunderstorms with statistical forecasts of high ambient grass pollen concentrations, which together generate the risk of epidemic thunderstorm asthma. This pilot system provides the first routine daily epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk forecasting service in the world that covers a wide area, and integrates into the health, ambulance, and emergency management sector. Epidemic thunderstorm asthma events have historically occurred infrequently, and no event of similar magnitude has impacted the Victorian health system since. However, during the first three years of the pilot, 2017–19, two high asthma presentation events and four moderate asthma presentation events were identified from public hospital emergency department records. The ETSA risk forecasts showed skill in discriminating between days with and without health impacts. However, even with hindsight of the actual weather and airborne grass pollen conditions, some high asthma presentation events occurred in districts that were assessed as low risk for ETSA, reflecting the challenge of predicting this unusual phenomenon.

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