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Samuel P. Lillo
,
David B. Parsons
, and
Malaquias Peña

Abstract

A major winter storm took place over Mexico during 7 to 11 March 2016, impacting 28 states and leaving four million families without power. Extensive agricultural damage and livestock deaths were also reported with widespread snow across central and northern Mexico. North of the border, this system resulted in record-breaking flooding and severe weather in Texas and Louisiana. The event was due to a trough that deepened and cut off over central Mexico with 500-hPa heights that were nine standard deviations below normal, well beyond previous records! Motivated by the societal impacts of this event, this study investigates factors that contributed to the extreme trough and influenced its predictability in forecast models. A strong El Niño provided the antecedent conditions, with enhanced tropical convection over the central Pacific, a strengthened subtropical anticyclone, and poleward Rossby wave dispersion. However, unlike past strong El Niños, the North Pacific preceding this event was characterized by significant synoptic-scale Rossby wave activity on the midlatitude jet stream including multiple wave packets tracking around the globe during February and March. The interaction of one of these packets with the subtropical anticyclone aloft resulted in a large anticyclonic wave break over the east Pacific, leading to the amplification of the downstream trough over Mexico. The ability of numerical weather prediction to capture this extreme trough is directly related to the predictability of the Rossby wave packet. These results are also discussed within the context of the relationship between El Niño, Rossby wave activity, and extreme events in western North America.

Free access
Kevin E. Trenberth
,
Aiguo Dai
,
Roy M. Rasmussen
, and
David B. Parsons

From a societal, weather, and climate perspective, precipitation intensity, duration, frequency, and phase are as much of concern as total amounts, as these factors determine the disposition of precipitation once it hits the ground and how much runs off. At the extremes of precipitation incidence are the events that give rise to floods and droughts, whose changes in occurrence and severity have an enormous impact on the environment and society. Hence, advancing understanding and the ability to model and predict the character of precipitation is vital but requires new approaches to examining data and models. Various mechanisms, storms and so forth, exist to bring about precipitation. Because the rate of precipitation, conditional on when it falls, greatly exceeds the rate of replenishment of moisture by surface evaporation, most precipitation comes from moisture already in the atmosphere at the time the storm begins, and transport of moisture by the storm-scale circulation into the storm is vital. Hence, the intensity of precipitation depends on available moisture, especially for heavy events. As climate warms, the amount of moisture in the atmosphere, which is governed by the Clausius–Clapeyron equation, is expected to rise much faster than the total precipitation amount, which is governed by the surface heat budget through evaporation. This implies that the main changes to be experienced are in the character of precipitation: increases in intensity must be offset by decreases in duration or frequency of events. The timing, duration, and intensity of precipitation can be systematically explored via the diurnal cycle, whose correct simulation in models remains an unsolved challenge of vital importance in global climate change. Typical problems include the premature initiation of convection, and precipitation events that are too light and too frequent. These challenges in observations, modeling, and understanding precipitation changes are being taken up in the NCAR “Water Cycle Across Scales” initiative, which will exploit the diurnal cycle as a test bed for a hierarchy of models to promote improvements in models.

Full access

Bore-ing into Nocturnal Convection

Kevin R. Haghi
,
Bart Geerts
,
Hristo G. Chipilski
,
Aaron Johnson
,
Samuel Degelia
,
David Imy
,
David B. Parsons
,
Rebecca D. Adams-Selin
,
David D. Turner
, and
Xuguang Wang

Abstract

There has been a recent wave of attention given to atmospheric bores in order to understand how they evolve and initiate and maintain convection during the night. This surge is attributable to data collected during the 2015 Plains Elevated Convection at Night (PECAN) field campaign. A salient aspect of the PECAN project is its focus on using multiple observational platforms to better understand convective outflow boundaries that intrude into the stable boundary layer and induce the development of atmospheric bores. The intent of this article is threefold: 1) to educate the reader on current and future foci of bore research, 2) to present how PECAN observations will facilitate aforementioned research, and 3) to stimulate multidisciplinary collaborative efforts across other closely related fields in an effort to push the limitations of prediction of nocturnal convection.

Full access
Tammy M. Weckwerth
,
David B. Parsons
,
Steven E. Koch
,
James A. Moore
,
Margaret A. LeMone
,
Belay B. Demoz
,
Cyrille Flamant
,
Bart Geerts
,
Junhong Wang
, and
Wayne F. Feltz

The International H2O Project (IHOP_2002) is one of the largest North American meteorological field experiments in history. From 13 May to 25 June 2002, over 250 researchers and technical staff from the United States, Germany, France, and Canada converged on the Southern Great Plains to measure water vapor and other atmospheric variables. The principal objective of IHOP_2002 is to obtain an improved characterization of the time-varying three-dimensional water vapor field and evaluate its utility in improving the understanding and prediction of convective processes. The motivation for this objective is the combination of extremely low forecast skill for warm-season rainfall and the relatively large loss of life and property from flash floods and other warm-season weather hazards. Many prior studies on convective storm forecasting have shown that water vapor is a key atmospheric variable that is insufficiently measured. Toward this goal, IHOP_2002 brought together many of the existing operational and new state-of-the-art research water vapor sensors and numerical models.

The IHOP_2002 experiment comprised numerous unique aspects. These included several instruments fielded for the first time (e.g., reference radiosonde); numerous upgraded instruments (e.g., Wyoming Cloud Radar); the first ever horizontal-pointing water vapor differential absorption lidar (DIAL; i.e., Leandre II on the Naval Research Laboratory P-3), which required the first onboard aircraft avoidance radar; several unique combinations of sensors (e.g., multiple profiling instruments at one field site and the German water vapor DIAL and NOAA/Environmental Technology Laboratory Doppler lidar on board the German Falcon aircraft); and many logistical challenges. This article presents a summary of the motivation, goals, and experimental design of the project, illustrates some preliminary data collected, and includes discussion on some potential operational and research implications of the experiment.

Full access
Gilbert Brunet
,
David B. Parsons
,
Dimitar Ivanov
,
Boram Lee
,
Peter Bauer
,
Natacha B. Bernier
,
Veronique Bouchet
,
Andy Brown
,
Antonio Busalacchi
,
Georgina Campbell Flatter
,
Rei Goffer
,
Paul Davies
,
Beth Ebert
,
Karl Gutbrod
,
Songyou Hong
,
P. K. Kenabatho
,
Hans-Joachim Koppert
,
David Lesolle
,
Amanda H. Lynch
,
Jean-François Mahfouf
,
Laban Ogallo
,
Tim Palmer
,
Kevin Petty
,
Dennis Schulze
,
Theodore G. Shepherd
,
Thomas F. Stocker
,
Alan Thorpe
, and
Rucong Yu

Abstract

Our world is rapidly changing. Societies are facing an increase in the frequency and intensity of high-impact and extreme weather and climate events. These extremes together with exponential population growth and demographic shifts (e.g., urbanization, increase in coastal populations) are increasing the detrimental societal and economic impact of hazardous weather and climate events. Urbanization and our changing global economy have also increased the need for accurate projections of climate change and improved predictions of disruptive and potentially beneficial weather events on kilometer scales. Technological innovations are also leading to an evolving and growing role of the private sector in the weather and climate enterprise. This article discusses the challenges faced in accelerating advances in weather and climate forecasting and proposes a vision for key actions needed across the private, public, and academic sectors. Actions span (i) utilizing the new observational and computing ecosystems; (ii) strategies to advance Earth system models; (iii) ways to benefit from the growing role of artificial intelligence; (iv) practices to improve the communication of forecast information and decision support in our age of internet and social media; and (v) addressing the need to reduce the relatively large, detrimental impacts of weather and climate on all nations and especially on low-income nations. These actions will be based on a model of improved cooperation between the public, private, and academic sectors. This article represents a concise summary of the white paper on the Future of Weather and Climate Forecasting (2021) put together by the World Meteorological Organizations’ Open Consultative Platform.

Open access
Bart Geerts
,
David Parsons
,
Conrad L. Ziegler
,
Tammy M. Weckwerth
,
Michael I. Biggerstaff
,
Richard D. Clark
,
Michael C. Coniglio
,
Belay B. Demoz
,
Richard A. Ferrare
,
William A. Gallus Jr.
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Kevin Haghi
,
John M. Hanesiak
,
Petra M. Klein
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Kevin R. Knupp
,
Karen Kosiba
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Greg M. McFarquhar
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James A. Moore
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Amin R. Nehrir
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Matthew D. Parker
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James O. Pinto
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Robert M. Rauber
,
Russ S. Schumacher
,
David D. Turner
,
Qing Wang
,
Xuguang Wang
,
Zhien Wang
, and
Joshua Wurman

Abstract

The central Great Plains region in North America has a nocturnal maximum in warm-season precipitation. Much of this precipitation comes from organized mesoscale convective systems (MCSs). This nocturnal maximum is counterintuitive in the sense that convective activity over the Great Plains is out of phase with the local generation of CAPE by solar heating of the surface. The lower troposphere in this nocturnal environment is typically characterized by a low-level jet (LLJ) just above a stable boundary layer (SBL), and convective available potential energy (CAPE) values that peak above the SBL, resulting in convection that may be elevated, with source air decoupled from the surface. Nocturnal MCS-induced cold pools often trigger undular bores and solitary waves within the SBL. A full understanding of the nocturnal precipitation maximum remains elusive, although it appears that bore-induced lifting and the LLJ may be instrumental to convection initiation and the maintenance of MCSs at night.

To gain insight into nocturnal MCSs, their essential ingredients, and paths toward improving the relatively poor predictive skill of nocturnal convection in weather and climate models, a large, multiagency field campaign called Plains Elevated Convection At Night (PECAN) was conducted in 2015. PECAN employed three research aircraft, an unprecedented coordinated array of nine mobile scanning radars, a fixed S-band radar, a unique mesoscale network of lower-tropospheric profiling systems called the PECAN Integrated Sounding Array (PISA), and numerous mobile-mesonet surface weather stations. The rich PECAN dataset is expected to improve our understanding and prediction of continental nocturnal warm-season precipitation. This article provides a summary of the PECAN field experiment and preliminary findings.

Full access