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  • Author or Editor: Eric P. James x
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James P. Kossin
,
Derrick C. Herndon
,
Anthony J. Wimmers
,
Xi Guo
, and
Eric S. Blake

Abstract

Eyewall replacement cycles (ERCs) in tropical cyclones (TCs) are generally associated with rapid changes in TC wind intensity and broadening of the TC wind field, both of which can create unique forecasting challenges. As part of the NOAA Joint Hurricane Testbed Project, a new model was developed to provide operational probabilistic guidance on ERC onset. The model is based on the time evolution of TC wind intensity and passive satellite microwave imagery and is named “M-PERC” for Microwave-Based Probability of Eyewall Replacement Cycle. The model was initially developed in the Atlantic basin but is found to be globally applicable and skillful. The development of M-PERC and its performance characteristics are described here, as well as a new intensity prediction model that extends previous work. Application of these models is expected to contribute to a reduction of TC intensity forecast error.

Restricted access
Stanley G. Benjamin
,
Eric P. James
,
Edward J. Szoke
,
Paul T. Schlatter
, and
John M. Brown

Abstract

The Marshall Fire on 30 December 2021 became the most destructive wildfire costwise in Colorado history as it evolved into a suburban firestorm in southeastern Boulder County, driven by strong winds and a snow-free and drought-influenced fuel state. The fire was driven by a strong downslope windstorm that maintained its intensity for nearly 11 hours. The southward movement of a large-scale jet axis across Boulder County brought a quick transition that day into a zone of upper-level descent, enhancing the midlevel inversion providing a favorable environment for an amplifying downstream mountain wave. In several aspects, this windstorm did not follow typical downslope windstorm behavior. NOAA rapidly updating numerical weather prediction guidance (including the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh) provided operationally useful forecasts of the windstorm, leading to the issuance of a High-Wind Warning (HWW) for eastern Boulder County. No Red Flag Warning was issued due to a too restrictive relative humidity criterion (already published alternatives are recommended); however, owing to the HWW, a countywide burn ban was issued for that day. Consideration of spatial (vertical and horizontal) and temporal (both valid time and initialization time) neighborhoods allows some quantification of forecast uncertainty from deterministic forecasts—important in real-time use for forecasting and public warnings of extreme events. Essentially, dimensions of the deterministic model were used to roughly estimate an ensemble forecast. These dimensions including run-to-run consistency are also important for subsequent evaluation of forecasts for small-scale features such as downslope windstorms and the tropospheric features responsible for them, similar to forecasts of deep, moist convection and related severe weather.

Significance Statement

The Front Range windstorm of 30 December 2021 combined extreme surface winds (>45 m s−1) with fire ignition resulting in an extraordinary and quickly evolving, extremely destructive wildfire–urban interface fire event. This windstorm differed from typical downslope windstorms in several aspects. We describe the observations, model guidance, and decision-making of operational forecasters for this event. In effect, an ensemble forecast was approximated by use of a frequently updated deterministic model by operational forecasters, and this combined use of temporal, spatial (horizontal and vertical), and other forecast dimensions is suggested to better estimate the possibility of such extreme events.

Open access
Tom H. Zapotocny
,
Steven J. Nieman
,
W. Paul Menzel
,
James P. Nelson III
,
James A. Jung
,
Eric Rogers
,
David F. Parrish
,
Geoffrey J. DiMego
,
Michael Baldwin
, and
Timothy J. Schmit

Abstract

A case study is utilized to determine the sensitivity of the Eta Data Assimilation System (EDAS) to all operational observational data types used within it. The work described in this paper should be of interest to Eta Model users trying to identify the impact of each data type and could benefit other modelers trying to use EDAS analyses and forecasts as initial conditions for other models.

The case study chosen is one characterized by strong Atlantic and Pacific maritime cyclogenesis, and is shortly after the EDAS began using three-dimensional variational analysis. The control run of the EDAS utilizes all 34 of the operational data types. One of these data types is then denied for each of the subsequent experimental runs. Differences between the experimental and control runs are analyzed to demonstrate the sensitivity of the EDAS system to each data type for the analysis and subsequent 48-h forecasts. Results show the necessity of various nonconventional observation types, such as aircraft data, satellite precipitable water, and cloud drift winds. These data types are demonstrated to have a significant impact, especially observations in maritime regions.

Full access
Stephen S. Weygandt
,
Stanley G. Benjamin
,
Ming Hu
,
Curtis R. Alexander
,
Tatiana G. Smirnova
, and
Eric P. James

Abstract

A technique for model initialization using three-dimensional radar reflectivity data has been developed and applied within the NOAA 13-km Rapid Refresh (RAP) and 3-km High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) regional forecast systems. This technique enabled the first assimilation of radar reflectivity data for operational NOAA forecast models, critical especially for more accurate short-range prediction of convective storms. For the RAP, the technique uses a diabatic digital filter initialization (DFI) procedure originally deployed to control initial inertial gravity wave noise. Within the forward-model integration portion of diabatic DFI, temperature tendencies obtained from the model cloud/precipitation processes are replaced by specified latent heating–based temperature tendencies derived from the three-dimensional radar reflectivity data, where available. To further refine initial conditions for the convection-allowing HRRR model, a similar procedure is used in the HRRR, but without DFI. Both of these procedures, together called the “Radar-LHI” (latent heating initialization) technique, have been essential for initialization of ongoing precipitation systems, especially convective systems, within all NOAA operational versions of the 13-km RAP and 3-km HRRR models extending through the latest implementation upgrade at NCEP in 2020. Application of the latent heat–derived temperature tendency induces a vertical circulation with low-level convergence and upper-level divergence in precipitation systems. Retrospective tests of the Radar-LHI technique show significant improvement in short-range (0–6 h) precipitation system forecasts, as revealed by reflectivity verification scores. Results presented document the impact on HRRR reflectivity forecasts of the radar reflectivity initialization technique applied to the RAP alone, HRRR alone, and both the RAP and HRRR.

Significance Statement

The large forecast uncertainty of convective situations, even at short lead times, coupled with the hazardous weather they produce, makes convective storm prediction one of the most significant short-range forecast challenges confronting the operational numerical weather prediction community. Prediction of heavy precipitation events also requires accurate initialization of precipitation systems. An innovative assimilation technique using radar reflectivity data to initialize NOAA operational weather prediction models is described. This technique, which uses latent heating specified from radar reflectivity (and can accommodate lightning data and other convection/precipitation indicators), was first implemented in 2009 at NOAA/NCEP and continues to be used in 2022 in the NCEP-operational RAP and HRRR models, making it a backbone of the NOAA rapidly updated numerical weather prediction capability.

Open access
Eric P. James
,
Curtis R. Alexander
,
David C. Dowell
,
Stephen S. Weygandt
,
Stanley G. Benjamin
,
Geoffrey S. Manikin
,
John M. Brown
,
Joseph B. Olson
,
Ming Hu
,
Tatiana G. Smirnova
,
Terra Ladwig
,
Jaymes S. Kenyon
, and
David D. Turner

Abstract

The High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) is a convection-allowing implementation of the Advanced Research version of the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF-ARW) Model that covers the conterminous United States and Alaska and runs hourly (for CONUS; every 3 h for Alaska) in real time at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. The high-resolution forecasts support a variety of user applications including aviation, renewable energy, and prediction of many forms of severe weather. In this second of two articles, forecast performance is documented for a wide variety of forecast variables and across HRRR versions. HRRR performance varies across geographical domain, season, and time of day depending on both prevalence of particular meteorological phenomena and the availability of both conventional and nonconventional observations. Station-based verification of surface weather forecasts (2-m temperature and dewpoint temperature, 10-m winds, visibility, and cloud ceiling) highlights the ability of the HRRR to represent daily planetary boundary layer evolution and the development of convective and stratiform cloud systems, while gridded verification of simulated composite radar reflectivity and quantitative precipitation forecasts reveals HRRR predictive skill for summer and winter precipitation systems. Significant improvements in performance for specific forecast problems are documented for the upgrade versions of the HRRR (HRRRv2, v3, and v4) implemented in 2016, 2018, and 2020, respectively. Development of the HRRR model data assimilation and physics paves the way for future progress with operational convective-scale modeling.

Significance Statement

NOAA’s operational hourly updating convection-allowing model, the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR), is a key tool for short-range weather forecasting and situational awareness. Improvements in assimilation of weather observations, as well as in physics parameterizations, has led to improvements in simulated radar reflectivity and quantitative precipitation forecasts since the initial implementation of HRRR in September 2014. Other targeted development has focused on improved representation of the diurnal cycle of the planetary boundary layer, resulting in improved near-surface temperature and humidity forecasts. Additional physics and data assimilation changes have led to improved treatment of the development and erosion of low-level clouds, including subgrid-scale clouds. The final version of HRRR features storm-scale ensemble data assimilation and explicit prediction of wildfire smoke plumes.

Open access
David C. Dowell
,
Curtis R. Alexander
,
Eric P. James
,
Stephen S. Weygandt
,
Stanley G. Benjamin
,
Geoffrey S. Manikin
,
Benjamin T. Blake
,
John M. Brown
,
Joseph B. Olson
,
Ming Hu
,
Tatiana G. Smirnova
,
Terra Ladwig
,
Jaymes S. Kenyon
,
Ravan Ahmadov
,
David D. Turner
,
Jeffrey D. Duda
, and
Trevor I. Alcott

Abstract

The High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) is a convection-allowing implementation of the Advanced Research version of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF-ARW) Model with hourly data assimilation that covers the conterminous United States and Alaska and runs in real time at the NOAA/National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). Implemented operationally at NOAA/NCEP in 2014, the HRRR features 3-km horizontal grid spacing and frequent forecasts (hourly for CONUS and 3-hourly for Alaska). HRRR initialization is designed for optimal short-range forecast skill with a particular focus on the evolution of precipitating systems. Key components of the initialization are radar-reflectivity data assimilation, hybrid ensemble-variational assimilation of conventional weather observations, and a cloud analysis to initialize stratiform cloud layers. From this initial state, HRRR forecasts are produced out to 18 h every hour, and out to 48 h every 6 h, with boundary conditions provided by the Rapid Refresh system. Between 2014 and 2020, HRRR development was focused on reducing model bias errors and improving forecast realism and accuracy. Improved representation of the planetary boundary layer, subgrid-scale clouds, and land surface contributed extensively to overall HRRR improvements. The final version of the HRRR (HRRRv4), implemented in late 2020, also features hybrid data assimilation using flow-dependent covariances from a 3-km, 36-member ensemble (“HRRRDAS”) with explicit convective storms. HRRRv4 also includes prediction of wildfire smoke plumes. The HRRR provides a baseline capability for evaluating NOAA’s next-generation Rapid Refresh Forecast System, now under development.

Significance Statement

NOAA’s operational hourly updating, convection-allowing model, the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR), is a key tool for short-range weather forecasting and situational awareness. Improvements in assimilation of weather observations, as well as in physics parameterizations, have led to improvements in simulated radar reflectivity and quantitative precipitation forecasts since the initial implementation of HRRR in September 2014. Other targeted development has focused on improved representation of the diurnal cycle of the planetary boundary layer, resulting in improved near-surface temperature and humidity forecasts. Additional physics and data assimilation changes have led to improved treatment of the development and erosion of low-level clouds, including subgrid-scale clouds. The final version of HRRR features storm-scale ensemble data assimilation and explicit prediction of wildfire smoke plumes.

Open access