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Yongsheng Chen
and
Chris Snyder

Abstract

Observations of hurricane position, which in practice might be available from satellite or radar imagery, can be easily assimilated with an ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF) given an operator that computes the position of the vortex in the background forecast. The simple linear updating scheme used in the EnKF is effective for small displacements of forecasted vortices from the true position; this situation is operationally relevant since hurricane position is often available frequently in time. When displacements of the forecasted vortices are comparable to the vortex size, non-Gaussian effects become significant and the EnKF’s linear update begins to degrade. Simulations using a simple two-dimensional barotropic model demonstrate the potential of the technique and show that the track forecast initialized with the EnKF analysis is improved. The assimilation of observations of the vortex shape and intensity, along with position, extends the technique’s effectiveness to larger displacements of the forecasted vortices than when assimilating position alone.

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Riwal Plougonven
and
Chris Snyder

Abstract

The spontaneous generation of inertia–gravity waves in idealized life cycles of baroclinic instability is investigated using the Weather Research and Forecasting Model. Two substantially different life cycles of baroclinic instability are obtained by varying the initial zonal jet. The wave generation depends strongly on the details of the baroclinic wave’s development. In the life cycle dominated by cyclonic behavior, the most conspicuous gravity waves are excited by the upper-level jet and are broadly consistent with previous simulations of O’Sullivan and Dunkerton. In the life cycle that is dominated by anticyclonic behavior, the most conspicuous gravity waves even in the stratosphere are excited by the surface fronts, although the fronts are no stronger than in the cyclonic life cycle. The anticyclonic life cycle also reveals waves in the lower stratosphere above the upper-level trough of the baroclinic wave; these waves have not been previously identified in idealized simulations. The sensitivities of the different waves to both resolution and dissipation are discussed.

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Chris Snyder
and
Fuqing Zhang

Abstract

Assimilation of Doppler radar data into cloud models is an important obstacle to routine numerical weather prediction for convective-scale motions; the difficulty lies in initializing fields of wind, temperature, moisture, and condensate given only observations of radial velocity and reflectivity from the radar. This paper investigates the potential of the ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF), which estimates the covariances between observed variables and the state through an ensemble of forecasts, to assimilate radar observations at convective scales. In the basic experiment, simulated observations are extracted from a reference simulation of a splitting supercell and assimilated using the EnKF and the same numerical model that produced the reference simulation. The EnKF produces accurate analyses, including the unobserved variables, after roughly 30 min (or six scans) of radial velocity observations. Additional experiments, in which forecasts are made from the ensemble-mean analysis, reveal that forecast errors grow significantly in this simple system, so that the ability of the EnKF to track the reference solution is not simply because of stable system dynamics. It is also found that the covariances between radial velocity and temperature, moisture, and condensate are important to the quality of the analyses, as is the initialization chosen for the ensemble members prior to assimilating the first observations. These results are promising, especially given the ease of implementing the EnKF. A number of important issues remain, however, including the initialization of the ensemble prior to the first observation, the treatment of uncertainty in the environmental sounding, the role of error in the forecast model (particularly the microphysical parameterizations), and the treatment of lateral boundary conditions.

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Laura Slivinski
and
Chris Snyder

Abstract

Particle filtering methods for data assimilation may suffer from the “curse of dimensionality,” where the required ensemble size grows rapidly as the dimension increases. It would, therefore, be useful to know a priori whether a particle filter is feasible to implement in a given system. Previous work provides an asymptotic relation between the necessary ensemble size and an exponential function of , a statistic that depends on observation-space quantities and that is related to the system dimension when the number of observations is large; for linear, Gaussian systems, the statistic can be computed from eigenvalues of an appropriately normalized covariance matrix. Tests with a low-dimensional system show that these asymptotic results remain useful when the system is nonlinear, with either the standard or optimal proposal implementation of the particle filter. This study explores approximations to the covariance matrices that facilitate computation in high-dimensional systems, as well as different methods to estimate the accumulated system noise covariance for the optimal proposal. Since may be approximated using an ensemble from a simpler data assimilation scheme, such as the ensemble Kalman filter, the asymptotic relations thus allow an estimate of the ensemble size required for a particle filter before its implementation. Finally, the improved performance of particle filters with the optimal proposal, relative to those using the standard proposal, in the same low-dimensional system is demonstrated.

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Joshua P. Hacker
and
Chris Snyder

Abstract

In situ surface layer observations are a rich data source that could be more effectively utilized in NWP applications. If properly assimilated, data from existing mesonets could improve initial conditions and lower boundary conditions, leading to the possibility of improved simulation and short-range forecasts of slope flows, sea breezes, convective initiation, and other PBL circulations.

A variance–covariance climatology is constructed by extracting a representative column from real-time mesoscale forecasts over the Southern Great Plains, and used to explore the potential for estimating the state of the PBL by assimilating surface observations. A parameterized 1D PBL model and an ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF) approach to assimilation are used to test this potential. Analysis focuses on understanding how effectively the EnKF can spread the surface observations vertically to constrain the state of the PBL model. Results confirm that assimilating surface observations can substantially improve the state of a modeled PBL. Experiments to estimate the moisture availability parameter through the data assimilation system show that the EnKF is a viable tool for parameter estimation, and may help mitigate model error in forecasting and simulating the PBL.

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F. Zhang
,
Chris Snyder
, and
Juanzhen Sun

Abstract

The ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF) uses an ensemble of short-range forecasts to estimate the flow-dependent background error covariances required in data assimilation. The feasibility of the EnKF for convective-scale data assimilation has been previously demonstrated in perfect-model experiments using simulated observations of radial velocity from a supercell storm. The present study further explores the potential and behavior of the EnKF at convective scales by considering more realistic initial analyses and variations in the availability and quality of the radar observations. Assimilation of simulated radial-velocity observations every 5 min where there is significant reflectivity using 20 ensemble members proves to be successful in most realistic observational scenarios for simulated supercell thunderstorms, although the same degree of success may not be readily expected with real observations and an imperfect model, at least with the present EnKF implementation. Even though the filter converges toward the truth simulation faster from a better initial estimate, an experiment with the initial estimate of the supercell displaced by 10 km still yields an accurate estimate of the storm for both observed and unobserved variables within 40 min. Similarly, radial-velocity observations below 2 km are certainly beneficial to capturing the storm (especially the detailed cold pool structure), but in their absence the assimilation scheme can still achieve a comparably accurate estimate of the state of the storm given a slightly longer assimilation period. An experiment with radar observations only above 4 km fails to assimilate the storm properly, but, with the addition of a hypothetical surface mesonet taking wind and temperature observations, the EnKF can again provide a good estimate of the storm. The supercell can also be successfully assimilated in the case of radar observations only below 4 km (such as those from the ground-based mobile radars). More frequent observations can help the storm assimilation initially, but the benefit diminishes after half an hour. Results presented here indicate that the vertical resolution and the uncertainty of observations, for the typical range of most of the observational radars, would have little impact on the overall performance of the EnKF in assimilating the storm.

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Thomas M. Hamill
and
Chris Snyder

Abstract

A hybrid ensemble Kalman filter–three-dimensional variational (3DVAR) analysis scheme is demonstrated using a quasigeostrophic model under perfect-model assumptions. Four networks with differing observational densities are tested, including one network with a data void. The hybrid scheme operates by computing a set of parallel data assimilation cycles, with each member of the set receiving unique perturbed observations. The perturbed observations are generated by adding random noise consistent with observation error statistics to the control set of observations. Background error statistics for the data assimilation are estimated from a linear combination of time-invariant 3DVAR covariances and flow-dependent covariances developed from the ensemble of short-range forecasts. The hybrid scheme allows the user to weight the relative contributions of the 3DVAR and ensemble-based background covariances.

The analysis scheme was cycled for 90 days, with new observations assimilated every 12 h. Generally, it was found that the analysis performs best when background error covariances are estimated almost fully from the ensemble, especially when the ensemble size was large. When small-sized ensembles are used, some lessened weighting of ensemble-based covariances is desirable. The relative improvement over 3DVAR analyses was dependent upon the observational data density and norm; generally, there is less improvement for data-rich networks than for data-poor networks, with the largest improvement for the network with the data void. As expected, errors depend on the size of the ensemble, with errors decreasing as more ensemble members are added. The sets of initial conditions generated from the hybrid are generally well calibrated and provide an improved set of initial conditions for ensemble forecasts.

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Jeffrey S. Whitaker
and
Chris Snyder

Abstract

The effects of spherical geometry on the nonlinear evolution of baroclinic waves are investigated by comparing integrations of a two-layer primitive equation (PE) model in spherical and Cartesian geometry. To isolate geometrical effects, the integrations use basic states with nearly identical potential vorticity (PV) structure.

Although the linear normal modes are very similar, significant differences develop at finite amplitude. Anticyclones (cyclones) in spherical geometry are relatively stronger (weaker) than those in Cartesian geometry. For this basic state, the strong anticyclones on the sphere are associated with anticyclonic wrapping of high PV in the upper layer (i.e., high PV air is advected southward and westward relative to the wave). In Cartesian geometry, large quasi-barotropic cyclonic vortices develop, and no anticyclonic wrapping of PV occurs. Because of their influence on the synoptic-scale flow, spherical geometric effects also lead to significant differences in the structure of mesoscale frontal features.

A standard midlatitude scale analysis indicates that the effects of sphericity enter in the next-order correction to β-plane quasigeostrophic (QG) dynamics. At leading order these spherical terms only affect the PV inversion operator (through the horizontal Laplacian) and the advection of PV by the nondivergent wind. Scaling arguments suggest, and numerical integrations of the barotropic vorticity equation confirm, that the dominant geometric effects are in the PV inversion operator. The dominant metric in the PV inversion operator is associated with the equatorward spreading of meridians on the sphere, and causes the anticyclonic (cyclonic) circulations in the spherical integration to become relatively stronger (weaker) than those in the Cartesian integration.

This study demonstrates that the effects of spherical geometry can be as important as the leading-order ageostrophic effects in determining the structure of evolution of dry baroclinic waves and their embedded mesoscale structures.

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Chris Snyder
and
Richard S. Lindzen

Abstract

In this study, the free-shear problem, a minimal version of baroclinic, quasi-geostrophic wave-CISK, is analyzed. The basic state consists of a zonal flow, unbounded above and below, with constant vertical shear and Brunt-Väisälä frequency and zero meridional gradient of the potential vorticity; and convective heating is parameterized in terms of the convergence below an arbitrary level. Because of the sensitivity to the vertical distribution of the parameterized heating typical of wave-CISK models, a simple thermodynamic constraint on the heating profile is used to broadly identify appropriate parameter regimes. The unstable waves in the free-shear problem grow rapidly and share many structural characteristics with dry baroclinic waves, although the dynamical process associated with dry baroclinic instability is absent; consideration of the potential vorticity dynamics of the unstable modes illustrates how heating may act as a dynamical surrogate for potential vorticity gradients. Although highly idealized, the free-shear problem also explains much of the behavior of more general wave-CISK models.

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Michael L. Waite
and
Chris Snyder

Abstract

The role of moist processes in the development of the mesoscale kinetic energy spectrum is investigated with numerical simulations of idealized moist baroclinic waves. Dry baroclinic waves yield upper-tropospheric kinetic energy spectra that resemble a −3 power law. Decomposition into horizontally rotational and divergent kinetic energy shows that the divergent energy has a much shallower spectrum, but its amplitude is too small to yield a characteristic kink in the total spectrum, which is dominated by the rotational part. The inclusion of moist processes energizes the mesoscale. In the upper troposphere, the effect is mainly in the divergent part of the kinetic energy; the spectral slope remains shallow (around − ) as in the dry case, but the amplitude increases with increasing humidity. The divergence field in physical space is consistent with inertia–gravity waves being generated in regions of latent heating and propagating throughout the baroclinic wave. Buoyancy flux spectra are used to diagnose the scale at which moist forcing—via buoyant production from latent heating—injects kinetic energy. There is significant input of kinetic energy in the mesoscale, with a peak at scales of around 800 km and a plateau at smaller scales. If the latent heating is artificially set to zero at some time, the enhanced divergent kinetic energy decays over several days toward the level obtained in the dry simulation. The effect of moist forcing of mesoscale kinetic energy presents a challenge for theories of the mesoscale spectrum based on the idealization of a turbulent inertial subrange.

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