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Nigel M. Roberts and Humphrey W. Lean

Abstract

The development of NWP models with grid spacing down to ∼1 km should produce more realistic forecasts of convective storms. However, greater realism does not necessarily mean more accurate precipitation forecasts. The rapid growth of errors on small scales in conjunction with preexisting errors on larger scales may limit the usefulness of such models. The purpose of this paper is to examine whether improved model resolution alone is able to produce more skillful precipitation forecasts on useful scales, and how the skill varies with spatial scale. A verification method will be described in which skill is determined from a comparison of rainfall forecasts with radar using fractional coverage over different sized areas. The Met Office Unified Model was run with grid spacings of 12, 4, and 1 km for 10 days in which convection occurred during the summers of 2003 and 2004. All forecasts were run from 12-km initial states for a clean comparison. The results show that the 1-km model was the most skillful over all but the smallest scales (approximately <10–15 km). A measure of acceptable skill was defined; this was attained by the 1-km model at scales around 40–70 km, some 10–20 km less than that of the 12-km model. The biggest improvement occurred for heavier, more localized rain, despite it being more difficult to predict. The 4-km model did not improve much on the 12-km model because of the difficulties of representing convection at that resolution, which was accentuated by the spinup from 12-km fields.

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David L. A. Flack, Suzanne L. Gray, Robert S. Plant, Humphrey W. Lean, and George C. Craig

Abstract

Convection-permitting ensembles have led to improved forecasts of many atmospheric phenomena. However, to fully utilize these forecasts the dependence of predictability on synoptic conditions needs to be understood. In this study, convective regimes are diagnosed based on a convective time scale that identifies the degree to which convection is in equilibrium with the large-scale forcing. Six convective cases are examined in a convection-permitting ensemble constructed using the Met Office Unified Model. The ensemble members were generated using small-amplitude buoyancy perturbations added into the boundary layer, which can be considered to represent turbulent fluctuations close to the grid scale. Perturbation growth is shown to occur on different scales with an order of magnitude difference between the regimes [O(1) km for cases closer to nonequilibrium convection and O(10) km for cases closer to equilibrium convection]. This difference reflects the fact that cell locations are essentially random in the equilibrium events after the first 12 h of the forecast, indicating a more rapid upscale perturbation growth compared to the nonequilibrium events. Furthermore, large temporal variability is exhibited in all perturbation growth diagnostics for the nonequilibrium regime. Two boundary condition–driven cases are also considered and show similar characteristics to the nonequilibrium cases, implying that caution is needed to interpret the time scale when initiation is not within the domain. Further understanding of perturbation growth within the different regimes could lead to a better understanding of where ensemble design improvements can be made beyond increasing the model resolution and could improve interpretation of forecasts.

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Humphrey W. Lean, Nigel M. Roberts, Peter A. Clark, and Cyril Morcrette

Abstract

Many factors, both mesoscale and larger scale, often come together in order for a particular convective initiation to take place. The authors describe a modeling study of a case from the Convective Storms Initiation Project (CSIP) in which a single thunderstorm formed behind a front in the southern United Kingdom. The key features of the case were a tongue of low-level high θw air associated with a forward-sloping split front (overrunning lower θw air above), a convergence line, and a “lid” of high static stability air, which the shower was initially constrained below but later broke through. In this paper, the authors analyze the initiation of the storm, which can be traced back to a region of high ground (Dartmoor) at around 0700 UTC, in more detail using model sensitivity studies with the Met Office Unified Model (MetUM). It is established that the convergence line was initially caused by roughness effects but had a significant thermal component later. Dartmoor had a key role in the development of the thunderstorm. A period of asymmetric flow over the high ground, with stronger low-level descent in the lee, led to a hole in a layer of low-level clouds downstream. The surface solar heating through this hole, in combination with the tongue of low-level high θw air associated with the front, caused the shower to initiate with sufficient lifting to enable it later to break through the lid.

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Humphrey W. Lean, Peter A. Clark, Mark Dixon, Nigel M. Roberts, Anna Fitch, Richard Forbes, and Carol Halliwell

Abstract

With many operational centers moving toward order 1-km-gridlength models for routine weather forecasting, this paper presents a systematic investigation of the properties of high-resolution versions of the Met Office Unified Model for short-range forecasting of convective rainfall events. The authors describe a suite of configurations of the Met Office Unified Model running with grid lengths of 12, 4, and 1 km and analyze results from these models for a number of convective cases from the summers of 2003, 2004, and 2005. The analysis includes subjective evaluation of the rainfall fields and comparisons of rainfall amounts, initiation, cell statistics, and a scale-selective verification technique. It is shown that the 4- and 1-km-gridlength models often give more realistic-looking precipitation fields because convection is represented explicitly rather than parameterized. However, the 4-km model representation suffers from large convective cells and delayed initiation because the grid length is too long to correctly reproduce the convection explicitly. These problems are not as evident in the 1-km model, although it does suffer from too numerous small cells in some situations. Both the 4- and 1-km models suffer from poor representation at the start of the forecast in the period when the high-resolution detail is spinning up from the lower-resolution (12 km) starting data used. A scale-selective precipitation verification technique implies that for later times in the forecasts (after the spinup period) the 1-km model performs better than the 12- and 4-km models for lower rainfall thresholds. For higher thresholds the 4-km model scores almost as well as the 1-km model, and both do better than the 12-km model.

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Thorwald H. M. Stein, Robin J. Hogan, Kirsty E. Hanley, John C. Nicol, Humphrey W. Lean, Robert S. Plant, Peter A. Clark, and Carol E. Halliwell

Abstract

A set of high-resolution radar observations of convective storms has been collected to evaluate such storms in the Met Office Unified Model during the Dynamical and Microphysical Evolution of Convective Storms (DYMECS) project. The 3-GHz Chilbolton Advanced Meteorological Radar was set up with a scan-scheduling algorithm to automatically track convective storms identified in real time from the operational rainfall radar network. More than 1000 storm observations gathered over 15 days in 2011 and 2012 are used to evaluate the model under various synoptic conditions supporting convection. In terms of the detailed three-dimensional morphology, storms in the 1500-m grid length simulations are shown to produce horizontal structures a factor of 1.5–2 wider compared to radar observations. A set of nested model runs at grid lengths down to 100 m show that the models converge in terms of storm width, but the storm structures in the simulations with the smallest grid lengths are too narrow and too intense compared to the radar observations. The modeled storms were surrounded by a region of drizzle without ice reflectivities above 0 dBZ aloft, which was related to the dominance of ice crystals and was improved by allowing only aggregates as an ice particle habit. Simulations with graupel outperformed the standard configuration for heavy-rain profiles, but the storm structures were a factor of 2 too wide and the convective cores 2 km too deep.

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