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Zied Ben Bouallègue
and
David S. Richardson

Abstract

The relative operating characteristic (ROC) curve is a popular diagnostic tool in forecast verification, with the area under the ROC curve (AUC) used as a verification metric measuring the discrimination ability of a forecast. Along with calibration, discrimination is deemed as a fundamental probabilistic forecast attribute. In particular, in ensemble forecast verification, AUC provides a basis for the comparison of potential predictive skill of competing forecasts. While this approach is straightforward when dealing with forecasts of common events (e.g., probability of precipitation), the AUC interpretation can turn out to be oversimplistic or misleading when focusing on rare events (e.g., precipitation exceeding some warning criterion). How should we interpret AUC of ensemble forecasts when focusing on rare events? How can changes in the way probability forecasts are derived from the ensemble forecast affect AUC results? How can we detect a genuine improvement in terms of predictive skill? Based on verification experiments, a critical eye is cast on the AUC interpretation to answer these questions. As well as the traditional trapezoidal approximation and the well-known binormal fitting model, we discuss a new approach that embraces the concept of imprecise probabilities and relies on the subdivision of the lowest ensemble probability category.

Open access
David A. Lavers
,
Ervin Zsoter
,
David S. Richardson
, and
Florian Pappenberger

Abstract

Early awareness of extreme precipitation can provide the time necessary to make adequate event preparations. At the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), one tool that condenses the forecast information from the Integrated Forecasting System ensemble (ENS) is the extreme forecast index (EFI), an index that highlights regions that are forecast to have potentially anomalous weather conditions compared to the local climate. This paper builds on previous findings by undertaking a global verification throughout the medium-range forecast horizon (out to 15 days) on the ability of the EFI for water vapor transport [integrated vapor transport (IVT)] and precipitation to capture extreme observed precipitation. Using the ECMWF ENS for winters 2015/16 and 2016/17 and daily surface precipitation observations, the relative operating characteristic is used to show that the IVT EFI is more skillful than the precipitation EFI in forecast week 2 over Europe and western North America. It is the large-scale nature of the IVT, its higher predictability, and its relationship with extreme precipitation that result in its potential usefulness in these regions, which, in turn, could provide earlier awareness of extreme precipitation. Conversely, at shorter lead times the precipitation EFI is more useful, although the IVT EFI can provide synoptic-scale understanding. For the whole globe, the extratropical Northern Hemisphere, the tropics, and North America, the precipitation EFI is more useful throughout the medium range, suggesting that precipitation processes not captured in the IVT are important (e.g., tropical convection). Following these results, the operational implementation of the IVT EFI is currently being planned.

Full access
Donald W. Burgess
,
Michael A. Magsig
,
Joshua Wurman
,
David C. Dowell
, and
Yvette Richardson

Abstract

The 3 May 1999 Oklahoma City storm is unique from a weather radar perspective because a long-track violent tornado passed within close range of several Doppler radars, because a detailed damage survey was conducted immediately after the event, and because high-quality visual observations of the tornado were available. The tornado passed relatively close (15–60 km) to two fixed-location Doppler radars: the National Weather Service Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) at Twin Lakes (KTLX) and the Radar Operations Center WSR-88D test radar at Norman (KCRI). Two mobile Doppler on Wheels (DOW) radars also observed the tornado at very close range (3–8 km). The data from DOW2 are nearly continuous for a substantial portion of the tornado's life and provide detailed information on the high-resolution velocity field in and around the tornado. These data permit good estimates of tornado rotational velocity and diameter. The data also allow comparison with tornado damage survey estimates of damage/intensity and with visual observations of tornado size. Further, one can compare the high-resolution DOW data to the lower-resolution WSR-88D observations to determine how much tornado information is lost because of the broader beamwidth (longer range) and longer gate length of the WSR-88Ds. Results of the study will be useful in determining how better to interpret future WSR-88D observations of near-range tornadoes, including any possible real-time estimation of tornado intensity and evolution.

Full access
Michael Colbert
,
David J. Stensrud
,
Paul M. Markowski
, and
Yvette P. Richardson

Abstract

In support of the Next Generation Global Prediction System (NGGPS) project, processes leading to convection initiation in the North American Mesoscale Forecast System, version 3 (NAMv3) are explored. Two severe weather outbreaks—occurring over the southeastern United States on 28 April 2014 and the central Great Plains on 6 May 2015—are forecast retrospectively using the NAMv3 CONUS (4 km) and Fire Weather (1.33 km) nests, each with 5-min output. Points of convection initiation are identified, and patterns leading to convection initiation in the model forecasts are determined. Results indicate that in the 30 min preceding convection initiation at a grid point, upward motion at low levels of the atmosphere enables a parcel to rise to its level of free convection, above which it is accelerated by the buoyancy force. A moist absolutely unstable layer (MAUL) typically is produced at the top of the updraft. However, when strong updrafts are collocated with large vertical gradients of potential temperature and moisture, noisy vertical profiles of temperature, moisture, and hydrometeor concentration develop beneath the rising MAUL. The noisy profiles found in this study are qualitatively similar to those that resulted in NAMv3 failures during simulations of Hurricane Joaquin in 2015. The CM1 cloud model is used to reproduce these noisy profiles, and results indicate that the noise can be mitigated by including explicit vertical diffusion in the model. Left unchecked, the noisy profiles are shown to impact convective storm features such as cold pools, precipitation, updraft helicity intensity and tracks, and the initiation of spurious convection.

Full access
David S. Richardson
,
Hannah L. Cloke
,
John A. Methven
, and
Florian Pappenberger

Abstract

We investigate the run-to-run consistency (jumpiness) of ensemble forecasts of tropical cyclone tracks from three global centers: ECMWF, the Met Office, and NCEP. We use a divergence function to quantify the change in cross-track position between consecutive ensemble forecasts initialized at 12-h intervals. Results for the 2019–21 North Atlantic hurricane season show that the jumpiness varied substantially between cases and centers, with no common cause across the different ensemble systems. Recent upgrades to the Met Office and NCEP ensembles reduced their overall jumpiness to match that of the ECMWF ensemble. The average divergence over the set of cases provides an objective measure of the expected change in cross-track position from one forecast to the next. For example, a user should expect on average that the ensemble mean position will change by around 80–90 km in the cross-track direction between a forecast for 120 h ahead and the updated forecast made 12 h later for the same valid time. This quantitative information can support users’ decision-making, for example, in deciding whether to act now or wait for the next forecast. We did not find any link between jumpiness and skill, indicating that users should not rely on the consistency between successive forecasts as a measure of confidence. Instead, we suggest that users should use ensemble spread and probabilistic information to assess forecast uncertainty, and consider multimodel combinations to reduce the effects of jumpiness.

Significance Statement

Forecasting the tracks of tropical cyclones is essential to mitigate their impacts on society. Numerical weather prediction models provide valuable guidance, but occasionally there is a large jump in the predicted track from one run to the next. This jumpiness complicates the creation and communication of consistent forecast advisories and early warnings. In this work we aim to better understand forecast jumpiness and we provide practical information to forecasters to help them better use the model guidance. We show that the jumpiest cases are different for different modeling centers, that recent model upgrades have reduced forecast jumpiness, and that there is not a strong link between jumpiness and forecast skill.

Open access