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Eric P. James
and
Stanley G. Benjamin

Abstract

A set of observation system experiments (OSEs) over three seasons using the hourly updated Rapid Refresh (RAP) numerical weather prediction (NWP) assimilation–forecast system identifies the importance of the various components of the North American observing system for 3–12-h RAP forecasts. Aircraft observations emerge as the strongest-impact observation type for wind, relative humidity (RH), and temperature forecasts, permitting a 15%–30% reduction in 6-h forecast error in the troposphere and lower stratosphere. Major positive impacts are also seen from rawinsondes, GOES satellite cloud observations, and surface observations, with lesser but still significant impacts from GPS precipitable water (PW) observations, satellite atmospheric motion vectors (AMVs), and radar reflectivity observations. A separate experiment revealed that the aircraft-related RH forecast improvement was augmented by 50% due specifically to the addition of aircraft moisture observations. Additionally, observations from en route aircraft and those from ascending or descending aircraft contribute approximately equally to the overall forecast skill, with the strongest impacts in the respective layers of the observations. Initial results from these OSEs supported implementation of an improved assimilation configuration of boundary layer pseudoinnovations from surface observations, as well as allowing the assimilation of satellite AMVs over land. The breadth of these experiments over the three seasons suggests that observation impact results are applicable to general forecasting skill, not just classes of phenomena during limited time periods.

Open access
Eric P. James
and
Richard H. Johnson

Abstract

Climatological characteristics of mesoscale convective vortices (MCVs) occurring in the state of Oklahoma during the late spring and summer of four years are investigated. The MCV cases are selected based on vortex detection by an objective algorithm operating on analyses from the Rapid Update Cycle (RUC) model. Consistent with a previous study, true MCVs represent only about 20% of the mesoscale relative vorticity maxima detected by the algorithm. The MCVs have a broad range of radii and intensities, and their longevities range between 1 and 54 h. Their median radius is about 200 km, and their median midlevel relative vorticity is 1.2 × 10−4 s−1. There appears to be no significant relationship between MCV longevity and intensity. Similar to past estimates, approximately 40% of the MCVs generate secondary convection within their circulations.

The mean synoptic-scale MCV environment is determined by the use of a RUC-based composite analysis at four different stages in the MCV life cycle, defined based on vortex detection by the objective algorithm. MCV initiation is closely tied to the diurnal cycle of convection over the Great Plains, with MCVs typically forming in the early morning, near the time of maximum extent of nocturnal mesoscale convective systems (MCSs). Features related to the parent MCSs, including upper-level divergent outflow, midlevel convergence, and a low-level jet, are prominent in the initiating MCV composite. The most significant feature later in the MCV life cycle is a persistent mesoscale trough in the midlevel height field. The potential vorticity (PV) structure of the composite MCV consists of a midlevel maximum and an upper-level minimum, with some extension of elevated PV into the lower troposphere as the vortex matures. The environment immediately downshear of the MCV is more conducive to secondary convection than the environment upshear of the MCV.

This midlatitude MCV climatology represents an extension of past individual case studies by providing mean characteristics of a large MCV population; these statistics are suitable for the verification of MCV simulations. Also presented is the first high-resolution composite analysis of the MCV environment at different stages of the MCV life cycle, which will aid in identifying and forecasting these systems.

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Eric P. James
and
Richard H. Johnson

Abstract

Surface pressure manifestations of mesoscale convective vortices (MCVs) that traversed Oklahoma during the periods May–August 2002–05 are studied using the Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D), the Oklahoma Mesonet, and the NOAA Profiler Network data. Forty-five MCVs that developed from mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) have been investigated, 28 (62%) of which exhibit mesolows detectable at the surface. Within this group, three distinct patterns of precipitation organization and associated mesolow evolution have been identified. The remaining 17 (38%) of the cases do not contain a surface mesolow. Two repeating patterns of precipitation organization are identified for the latter group.

The three categories of MCVs possessing a surface mesolow are as follows. Nineteen are classified as “rear-inflow-jet MCVs,” and tend to form within large and intense asymmetric MCSs. Rear inflow into the MCS, enhanced by the development of an MCV on the left-hand side relative to system motion, produces a rear-inflow notch and a distinct surface wake low at the back edge of the stratiform region. Hence, the surface mesolow and MCV are displaced from one another. Eight are classified as “collapsing-stratiform-region MCVs.” These MCVs arise from small asymmetric MCSs. As the stratiform region of the MCS weakens, a large mesolow appears beneath its dissipating remnants due to broad subsidence warming, and at the same time the midlevel vortex spins up due to column stretching. One case, called a “vertically coherent MCV,” contains a well-defined surface mesolow and associated cyclonic circulation, apparently due to the strength of the midlevel warm core and the weakness of the low-level cold pool. In these latter two cases, the surface mesolow and MCV are approximately collocated.

Within the group of MCVs without a surface mesolow, 14 are classified as “remnant-circulation MCVs” containing no significant precipitation or surface pressure effects. Finally, three are classified as “cold-pool-dominated MCVs;” these cases contain significant precipitation but no discernible surface mesolow.

This study represents the first systematic analysis of the surface mesolows associated with MCVs. The pattern of surface pressure and winds accompanying MCVs can affect subsequent convective development in such systems. Extension of the findings herein to tropical oceans may have implications regarding tropical cyclogenesis.

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Daniel P. Brown
,
John L. Beven
,
James L. Franklin
, and
Eric S. Blake

Abstract

The 2008 Atlantic hurricane season is summarized and the year’s tropical cyclones are described. Sixteen named storms formed in 2008. Of these, eight became hurricanes with five of them strengthening into major hurricanes (category 3 or higher on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale). There was also one tropical depression that did not attain tropical storm strength. These totals are above the long-term means of 11 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes. The 2008 Atlantic basin tropical cyclones produced significant impacts from the Greater Antilles to the Turks and Caicos Islands as well as along portions of the U.S. Gulf Coast. Hurricanes Gustav, Ike, and Paloma hit Cuba, as did Tropical Storm Fay. Haiti was hit by Gustav and adversely affected by heavy rains from Fay, Ike, and Hanna. Paloma struck the Cayman Islands as a major hurricane, while Omar was a major hurricane when it passed near the northern Leeward Islands. Six consecutive cyclones hit the United States, including Hurricanes Dolly, Gustav, and Ike. The death toll from the Atlantic tropical cyclones is approximately 750.

A verification of National Hurricane Center official forecasts during 2008 is also presented. Official track forecasts set records for accuracy at all lead times from 12 to 120 h, and forecast skill was also at record levels for all lead times. Official intensity forecast errors in 2008 were below the previous 5-yr mean errors and set records at 72–120 h.

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John L. Beven II
,
Lixion A. Avila
,
Eric S. Blake
,
Daniel P. Brown
,
James L. Franklin
,
Richard D. Knabb
,
Richard J. Pasch
,
Jamie R. Rhome
, and
Stacy R. Stewart

Abstract

The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active of record. Twenty-eight storms occurred, including 27 tropical storms and one subtropical storm. Fifteen of the storms became hurricanes, and seven of these became major hurricanes. Additionally, there were two tropical depressions and one subtropical depression. Numerous records for single-season activity were set, including most storms, most hurricanes, and highest accumulated cyclone energy index. Five hurricanes and two tropical storms made landfall in the United States, including four major hurricanes. Eight other cyclones made landfall elsewhere in the basin, and five systems that did not make landfall nonetheless impacted land areas. The 2005 storms directly caused nearly 1700 deaths. This includes approximately 1500 in the United States from Hurricane Katrina—the deadliest U.S. hurricane since 1928. The storms also caused well over $100 billion in damages in the United States alone, making 2005 the costliest hurricane season of record.

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Richard J. Pasch
,
Eric S. Blake
,
Lixion A. Avila
,
John L. Beven
,
Daniel P. Brown
,
James L. Franklin
,
Richard D. Knabb
,
Michelle M. Mainelli
,
Jamie R. Rhome
, and
Stacy R. Stewart

Abstract

The hurricane season of 2006 in the eastern North Pacific basin is summarized, and the individual tropical cyclones are described. Also, the official track and intensity forecasts of these cyclones are verified and evaluated. The 2006 eastern North Pacific season was an active one, in which 18 tropical storms formed. Of these, 10 became hurricanes and 5 became major hurricanes. A total of 2 hurricanes and 1 tropical depression made landfall in Mexico, causing 13 direct deaths in that country along with significant property damage. On average, the official track forecasts in the eastern Pacific for 2006 were quite skillful. No appreciable improvement in mean intensity forecasts was noted, however.

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Stanley G. Benjamin
,
Eric P. James
,
Ming Hu
,
Curtis R. Alexander
,
Therese T. Ladwig
,
John M. Brown
,
Stephen S. Weygandt
,
David D. Turner
,
Patrick Minnis
,
William L. Smith Jr.
, and
Andrew K. Heidinger

Abstract

Accurate cloud and precipitation forecasts are a fundamental component of short-range data assimilation/model prediction systems such as the NOAA 3-km High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) or the 13-km Rapid Refresh (RAP). To reduce cloud and precipitation spinup problems, a nonvariational assimilation technique for stratiform clouds was developed within the Gridpoint Statistical Interpolation (GSI) data assimilation system. One goal of this technique is retention of observed stratiform cloudy and clear 3D volumes into the subsequent model forecast. The cloud observations used include cloud-top data from satellite brightness temperatures, surface-based ceilometer data, and surface visibility. Quality control, expansion into spatial information content, and forward operators are described for each observation type. The projection of data from these observation types into an observation-based cloud-information 3D gridded field is accomplished via identification of cloudy, clear, and cloud-unknown 3D volumes. Updating of forecast background fields is accomplished through clearing and building of cloud water and cloud ice with associated modifications to water vapor and temperature. Impact of the cloud assimilation on short-range forecasts is assessed with a set of retrospective experiments in warm and cold seasons using the RAPv5 model. Short-range (1–9 h) forecast skill is improved in both seasons for cloud ceiling and visibility and for 2-m temperature in daytime and with mixed results for other measures. Two modifications were introduced and tested with success: use of prognostic subgrid-scale cloud fraction to condition cloud building (in response to a high bias) and removal of a WRF-based rebalancing.

Open access
Yelena L. Pichugina
,
Robert M. Banta
,
Joseph B. Olson
,
Jacob R. Carley
,
Melinda C. Marquis
,
W. Alan Brewer
,
James M. Wilczak
,
Irina Djalalova
,
Laura Bianco
,
Eric P. James
,
Stanley G. Benjamin
, and
Joel Cline

Abstract

Evaluation of model skill in predicting winds over the ocean was performed by comparing retrospective runs of numerical weather prediction (NWP) forecast models to shipborne Doppler lidar measurements in the Gulf of Maine, a potential region for U.S. coastal wind farm development. Deployed on board the NOAA R/V Ronald H. Brown during a 2004 field campaign, the high-resolution Doppler lidar (HRDL) provided accurate motion-compensated wind measurements from the water surface up through several hundred meters of the marine atmospheric boundary layer (MABL). The quality and resolution of the HRDL data allow detailed analysis of wind flow at heights within the rotor layer of modern wind turbines and data on other critical variables to be obtained, such as wind speed and direction shear, turbulence, low-level jet properties, ramp events, and many other wind-energy-relevant aspects of the flow. This study will focus on the quantitative validation of NWP models’ wind forecasts within the lower MABL by comparison with HRDL measurements. Validation of two modeling systems rerun in special configurations for these 2004 cases—the hourly updated Rapid Refresh (RAP) system and a special hourly updated version of the North American Mesoscale Forecast System [NAM Rapid Refresh (NAMRR)]—are presented. These models were run at both normal-resolution (RAP, 13 km; NAMRR, 12 km) and high-resolution versions: the NAMRR-CONUS-nest (4 km) and the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR, 3 km). Each model was run twice: with (experimental runs) and without (control runs) assimilation of data from 11 wind profiling radars located along the U.S. East Coast. The impact of the additional assimilation of the 11 profilers was estimated by comparing HRDL data to modeled winds from both runs. The results obtained demonstrate the importance of high-resolution lidar measurements to validate NWP models and to better understand what atmospheric conditions may impact the accuracy of wind forecasts in the marine atmospheric boundary layer. Results of this research will also provide a first guess as to the uncertainties of wind resource assessment using NWP models in one of the U.S. offshore areas projected for wind plant development.

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Stanley G. Benjamin
,
Stephen S. Weygandt
,
John M. Brown
,
Ming Hu
,
Curtis R. Alexander
,
Tatiana G. Smirnova
,
Joseph B. Olson
,
Eric P. James
,
David C. Dowell
,
Georg A. Grell
,
Haidao Lin
,
Steven E. Peckham
,
Tracy Lorraine Smith
,
William R. Moninger
,
Jaymes S. Kenyon
, and
Geoffrey S. Manikin

Abstract

The Rapid Refresh (RAP), an hourly updated assimilation and model forecast system, replaced the Rapid Update Cycle (RUC) as an operational regional analysis and forecast system among the suite of models at the NOAA/National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) in 2012. The need for an effective hourly updated assimilation and modeling system for the United States for situational awareness and related decision-making has continued to increase for various applications including aviation (and transportation in general), severe weather, and energy. The RAP is distinct from the previous RUC in three primary aspects: a larger geographical domain (covering North America), use of the community-based Advanced Research version of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model (ARW) replacing the RUC forecast model, and use of the Gridpoint Statistical Interpolation analysis system (GSI) instead of the RUC three-dimensional variational data assimilation (3DVar). As part of the RAP development, modifications have been made to the community ARW model (especially in model physics) and GSI assimilation systems, some based on previous model and assimilation design innovations developed initially with the RUC. Upper-air comparison is included for forecast verification against both rawinsondes and aircraft reports, the latter allowing hourly verification. In general, the RAP produces superior forecasts to those from the RUC, and its skill has continued to increase from 2012 up to RAP version 3 as of 2015. In addition, the RAP can improve on persistence forecasts for the 1–3-h forecast range for surface, upper-air, and ceiling forecasts.

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