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Istvan Szunyogh
Zoltan Toth
Aleksey V. Zimin
Sharanya J. Majumdar
, and
Anders Persson


The propagation of the effect of targeted observations in numerical weather forecasts is investigated, based on results from the 2000 Winter Storm Reconnaissance (WSR00) program. In this field program, nearly 300 dropsondes were released adaptively at selected locations over the northeast Pacific on 12 separate flight days with the aim of reducing the risk of major failures in severe winter storm forecasts over the United States. The data impact was assessed by analysis–forecast experiments carried out with the T62 horizontal resolution, 28-level version of the operational global Medium Range Forecast system of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction.

In some cases, storms that reached the West Coast or Alaska were observed in an earlier phase of their development, while at other times the goal was to improve the prediction of storms that formed far downstream of the targeted region. Changes in the forecasts were the largest when landfalling systems were targeted and the baroclinic energy conversion was strong in the targeted region.

As expected from the experience accumulated during the 1999 Winter Storm Reconnaissance (WSR99) program, downstream baroclinic development played a major role in propagating the influence of the targeted data over North America. The results also show, however, that predicting the location of significant changes due to the targeted data in the forecasts can be difficult in the presence of a nonzonal large-scale flow. The strong zonal variations in the large-scale flow over the northeast Pacific during WSR00 did not reduce the positive forecast effects of the targeted data. On the contrary, the overall impact of the dropsonde data was more positive than during WSR99, when the large-scale flow was dominantly zonal on the flight days. This can be attributed to the improved prediction of the large-scale flow that led to additional improvements in the prediction of the synoptic-scale waves.

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