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Craig S. Schwartz

Abstract

Analyses with 20-km horizontal grid spacing were produced from continuously cycling three-dimensional variational (3DVAR), ensemble square root Kalman filter (EnSRF), and “hybrid” variational–ensemble data assimilation (DA) systems over a domain spanning the conterminous United States. These analyses initialized 36-h Weather Research and Forecasting Model forecasts containing a large convection-allowing 4-km nested domain, where downscaled 20-km 3DVAR, EnSRF, and hybrid analyses initialized the 4-km forecasts. Overall, hybrid analyses initialized the best 4-km precipitation forecasts.

Furthermore, whether 4-km precipitation forecasts could be improved by initializing them with true 4-km analyses was assessed. As it was computationally infeasible to produce 4-km continuously cycling ensembles over the large 4-km domain, several “dual-resolution” hybrid DA configurations were adopted where 4-km backgrounds were combined with 20-km ensembles to produce 4-km hybrid analyses. Additionally, 4-km 3DVAR analyses were produced.

In both hybrid and 3DVAR frameworks, initializing 4-km forecasts with true 4-km analyses, rather than downscaled 20-km analyses, yielded superior precipitation forecasts over the first 12 h. Differences between forecasts initialized from 4-km and downscaled 20-km hybrid analyses were smaller for 18–36-h forecasts, but there were occasionally meaningful differences. Continuously cycling the 4-km backgrounds and using static background error covariances with larger horizontal length scales in the hybrid led to better forecasts. All hybrid-initialized forecasts, including those initialized from downscaled 20-km analyses, were more skillful than forecasts initialized from 4-km 3DVAR analyses, suggesting the analysis method was more important than analysis resolution.

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Craig S. Schwartz

Abstract

Two sets of global, 132-h (5.5-day), 10-member ensemble forecasts were produced with the Model for Prediction Across Scales (MPAS) for 35 cases in April and May 2017. One MPAS ensemble had a quasi-uniform 15-km mesh while the other employed a variable-resolution mesh with 3-km cell spacing over the conterminous United States (CONUS) that smoothly relaxed to 15 km over the rest of the globe. Precipitation forecasts from both MPAS ensembles were objectively verified over the central and eastern CONUS to assess the potential benefits of configuring MPAS with a 3-km mesh refinement region for medium-range forecasts. In addition, forecasts from NCEP’s operational Global Ensemble Forecast System were evaluated and served as a baseline against which to compare the experimental MPAS ensembles. The 3-km MPAS ensemble most faithfully reproduced the observed diurnal cycle of precipitation throughout the 132-h forecasts and had superior precipitation skill and reliability over the first 48 h. However, after 48 h, the three ensembles had more similar spread, reliability, and skill, and differences between probabilistic precipitation forecasts derived from the 3- and 15-km MPAS ensembles were typically statistically insignificant. Nonetheless, despite fewer benefits of increased resolution for spatial placement after 48 h, 3-km ensemble members explicitly provided potentially valuable guidance regarding convective mode throughout the 132-h forecasts while the other ensembles did not. Collectively, these results suggest both strengths and limitations of medium-range high-resolution ensemble forecasts and reveal pathways for future investigations to improve understanding of high-resolution global ensembles with variable-resolution meshes.

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Craig S. Schwartz
and
Zhiquan Liu

Abstract

Analyses with 20-km horizontal grid spacing were produced from parallel continuously cycling three-dimensional variational (3DVAR), ensemble square root Kalman filter (EnSRF), and “hybrid” variational–ensemble data assimilation (DA) systems between 0000 UTC 6 May and 0000 UTC 21 June 2011 over a domain spanning the contiguous United States. Beginning 9 May, the 0000 UTC analyses initialized 36-h Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) forecasts containing a large convection-permitting 4-km nest. These 4-km 3DVAR-, EnSRF-, and hybrid-initialized forecasts were compared to benchmark WRF forecasts initialized by interpolating 0000 UTC Global Forecast System (GFS) analyses onto the computational domain.

While important differences regarding mean state characteristics of the 20-km DA systems were noted, verification efforts focused on the 4-km precipitation forecasts. The 3DVAR-, hybrid-, and EnSRF-initialized 4-km precipitation forecasts performed similarly regarding general precipitation characteristics, such as timing of the diurnal cycle, and all three forecast sets had high precipitation biases at heavier rainfall rates. However, meaningful differences emerged regarding precipitation placement as quantified by the fractions skill score. For most forecast hours, the hybrid-initialized 4-km precipitation forecasts were better than the EnSRF-, 3DVAR-, and GFS-initialized forecasts, and the improvement was often statistically significant at the 95th percentile. These results demonstrate the potential of limited-area continuously cycling hybrid DA configurations and suggest additional hybrid development is warranted.

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Craig S. Schwartz
and
Ryan A. Sobash

Abstract

Hourly accumulated precipitation forecasts from deterministic convection-allowing numerical weather prediction models with 3- and 1-km horizontal grid spacing were evaluated over 497 forecasts between 2010 and 2017 over the central and eastern conterminous United States (CONUS). While precipitation biases varied geographically and seasonally, 1-km model climatologies of precipitation generally aligned better with those observed than 3-km climatologies. Additionally, during the cool season and spring, when large-scale forcing was strong and precipitation entities were large, 1-km forecasts were more skillful than 3-km forecasts, particularly over southern portions of the CONUS where instability was greatest. Conversely, during summertime, when synoptic-scale forcing was weak and precipitation entities were small, 3- and 1-km forecasts had similar skill. These collective results differ substantially from previous work finding 4-km forecasts had comparable springtime precipitation forecast skill as 1- or 2-km forecasts over the central–eastern CONUS. Additional analyses and experiments suggest the greater benefits of 1-km forecasts documented here could be related to higher-quality initial conditions than in prior studies. However, further research is needed to confirm this hypothesis.

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Craig S. Schwartz
and
Ryan A. Sobash

Abstract

“Neighborhood approaches” have been used in two primary ways to postprocess and verify high-resolution ensemble output. While the two methods appear deceptively similar, they define events over different spatial scales and yield fields with different interpretations: the first produces probabilities interpreted as likelihood of event occurrence at the grid scale, while the second produces probabilities of event occurrence over spatial scales larger than the grid scale. Unfortunately, some studies have confused the two methods, while others did not acknowledge multiple possibilities of neighborhood approach application and simply stated, “a neighborhood approach was applied” without supporting details. Thus, this paper reviews applications of neighborhood approaches to convection-allowing ensembles in hopes of clarifying the two methods and their different event definitions. Then, using real data, it is demonstrated how the two approaches can yield statistically significantly different objective conclusions about model performance, underscoring the critical need for thorough descriptions of how neighborhood approaches are implemented and events are defined. The authors conclude by providing some recommendations for application of neighborhood approaches to convection-allowing ensembles.

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Zhiquan Liu
,
Craig S. Schwartz
,
Chris Snyder
, and
So-Young Ha

Abstract

The impact of assimilating radiance observations from the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit-A (AMSU-A) on forecasts of several tropical cyclones (TCs) was studied using the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) and a limited-area ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF). Analysis/forecast cycling experiments with and without AMSU-A radiance assimilation were performed over the Atlantic Ocean for the period 11 August–13 September 2008, when five named storms formed. For convenience, the radiance forward operators and bias-correction coefficients, along with the majority of quality-control decisions, were computed by a separate, preexisting variational assimilation system. The bias-correction coefficients were obtained from 3-month offline statistics and fixed during the EnKF analysis cycles. The vertical location of each radiance observation, which is required for covariance localization in the EnKF, was taken to be the level at which the AMSU-A channels’ weighting functions peaked.

Deterministic 72-h WRF forecasts initialized from the ensemble-mean analyses were evaluated with a focus on TC prediction. Assimilating AMSU-A radiances produced better depictions of the environmental fields when compared to reanalyses and dropwindsonde observations. Radiance assimilation also resulted in substantial improvement of TC track and intensity forecasts with track-error reduction up to 16% for forecasts beyond 36 h. Additionally, assimilating both radiances and satellite winds gave markedly more benefit for TC track forecasts than solely assimilating radiances.

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Craig S. Schwartz
,
Zhiquan Liu
, and
Xiang-Yu Huang

Abstract

Dual-resolution (DR) hybrid variational-ensemble analysis capability was implemented within the community Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model data assimilation (DA) system, which is designed for limited-area applications. The DR hybrid system combines a high-resolution (HR) background, flow-dependent background error covariances (BECs) derived from a low-resolution ensemble, and observations to produce a deterministic HR analysis. As DR systems do not require HR ensembles, they are computationally cheaper than single-resolution (SR) hybrid configurations, where the background and ensemble have equal resolutions.

Single-observation tests were performed to document some characteristics of limited-area DR hybrid analyses. Additionally, the DR hybrid system was evaluated within a continuously cycling framework, where new DR hybrid analyses were produced every 6 h over ~3.5 weeks. In the DR configuration presented here, the deterministic backgrounds and analyses had 15-km horizontal grid spacing, but the 32-member WRF Model–based ensembles providing flow-dependent BECs for the hybrid had 45-km horizontal grid spacing. The DR hybrid analyses initialized 72-h WRF Model forecasts that were compared to forecasts initialized by an SR hybrid system where both the ensemble and background had 15-km horizontal grid spacing. The SR and DR hybrid systems were coupled to an ensemble adjustment Kalman filter that updated ensembles each DA cycle.

On average, forecasts initialized from 15-km DR and SR hybrid analyses were not statistically significantly different, although tropical cyclone track forecast errors favored the SR-initialized forecasts. Although additional studies over longer time periods and at finer grid spacing are needed to further understand sensitivity to ensemble perturbation resolution, these results suggest users should carefully consider whether SR hybrid systems are worth the extra cost.

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Xiaoshi Qiao
,
Shizhang Wang
,
Craig S. Schwartz
,
Zhiquan Liu
, and
Jinzhong Min

Abstract

A probability matching (PM) product using the ensemble maximum (EnMax) as the basis for spatial reassignment was developed. This PM product was called the PM max and its localized version was called the local PM (LPM) max. Both products were generated from a 10-member ensemble with 3-km horizontal grid spacing and evaluated over 364 36-h forecasts in terms of the fractions skill score. Performances of the PM max and LPM max were compared to those of the traditional PM mean and LPM mean, which both used the ensemble mean (EnMean) as the basis for spatial reassignment. Compared to observations, the PM max typically outperformed the PM mean for precipitation rates ≥5 mm h−1; this improvement was related to the EnMax, which had better spatial placement than the EnMean for heavy precipitation. However, the PM mean produced better forecasts than the PM max for lighter precipitation. It appears that the global reassignment used to produce the PM max was responsible for its poorer performance relative to the PM mean at light precipitation rates, as the LPM max was more skillful than the LPM mean at all thresholds. These results suggest promise for PM products based on the EnMax, especially for rare events and ensembles with insufficient spread.

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Glen S. Romine
,
Craig S. Schwartz
,
Chris Snyder
,
Jeff L. Anderson
, and
Morris L. Weisman

Abstract

During the spring 2011 season, a real-time continuously cycled ensemble data assimilation system using the Advanced Research version of the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) coupled with the Data Assimilation Research Testbed toolkit provided initial and boundary conditions for deterministic convection-permitting forecasts, also using WRF, over the eastern two-thirds of the conterminous United States (CONUS). In this study the authors evaluate the mesoscale assimilation system and the convection-permitting forecasts, at 15- and 3-km grid spacing, respectively. Experiments employing different physics options within the continuously cycled ensemble data assimilation system are shown to lead to differences in the mean mesoscale analysis characteristics. Convection-permitting forecasts with a fixed model configuration are initialized from these physics-varied analyses, as well as control runs from 0.5° Global Forecast System (GFS) analysis. Systematic bias in the analysis background influences the analysis fit to observations, and when this analysis initializes convection-permitting forecasts, the forecast skill is degraded as bias in the analysis background increases. Moreover, differences in mean error characteristics associated with each physical parameterization suite lead to unique errors of spatial, temporal, and intensity aspects of convection-permitting rainfall forecasts. Observation bias by platform type is also shown to impact the analysis quality.

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Craig S. Schwartz
,
Glen S. Romine
,
Kathryn R. Fossell
,
Ryan A. Sobash
, and
Morris L. Weisman

Abstract

Precipitation forecasts from convection-allowing ensembles with 3- and 1-km horizontal grid spacing were evaluated between 15 May and 15 June 2013 over central and eastern portions of the United States. Probabilistic forecasts produced from 10- and 30-member, 3-km ensembles were consistently better than forecasts from individual 1-km ensemble members. However, 10-member, 1-km probabilistic forecasts usually were best, especially over the first 12 h and at rainfall rates ≥ 5.0 mm h−1 at later times. Further object-based investigation revealed that better 1-km forecasts at heavier rainfall rates were associated with more accurate placement of mesoscale convective systems compared to 3-km forecasts. The collective results indicate promise for 1-km ensembles once computational resources can support their operational implementation.

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