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John S. Kain
Steven J. Weiss
David R. Bright
Michael E. Baldwin
Jason J. Levit
Gregory W. Carbin
Craig S. Schwartz
Morris L. Weisman
Kelvin K. Droegemeier
Daniel B. Weber
, and
Kevin W. Thomas


During the 2005 NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed Spring Experiment two different high-resolution configurations of the Weather Research and Forecasting-Advanced Research WRF (WRF-ARW) model were used to produce 30-h forecasts 5 days a week for a total of 7 weeks. These configurations used the same physical parameterizations and the same input dataset for the initial and boundary conditions, differing primarily in their spatial resolution. The first set of runs used 4-km horizontal grid spacing with 35 vertical levels while the second used 2-km grid spacing and 51 vertical levels.

Output from these daily forecasts is analyzed to assess the numerical forecast sensitivity to spatial resolution in the upper end of the convection-allowing range of grid spacing. The focus is on the central United States and the time period 18–30 h after model initialization. The analysis is based on a combination of visual comparison, systematic subjective verification conducted during the Spring Experiment, and objective metrics based largely on the mean diurnal cycle of the simulated reflectivity and precipitation fields. Additional insight is gained by examining the size distributions of the individual reflectivity and precipitation entities, and by comparing forecasts of mesocyclone occurrence in the two sets of forecasts.

In general, the 2-km forecasts provide more detailed presentations of convective activity, but there appears to be little, if any, forecast skill on the scales where the added details emerge. On the scales where both model configurations show higher levels of skill—the scale of mesoscale convective features—the numerical forecasts appear to provide comparable utility as guidance for severe weather forecasters. These results suggest that, for the geographical, phenomenological, and temporal parameters of this study, any added value provided by decreasing the grid increment from 4 to 2 km (with commensurate adjustments to the vertical resolution) may not be worth the considerable increases in computational expense.

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