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  • Author or Editor: J. J. Gourley x
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Jonathan J. Gourley
and
Chris M. Calvert

Abstract

During stratiform precipitation, hydrometeors within the melting layer increase backscatter to radar. This layer can persist at a nearly constant height for hours and can lead to serious radar-based overestimates in accumulated surface rainfall. Sophisticated precipitation algorithms of the present and near future are beginning to identify regions where there is contaminated reflectivity in order to make corrections to the data. An automated algorithm that operates on full-resolution Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) reflectivity data (i.e., archive level II) to identify the height and depth of the bright band for every volume scan has been developed. Results from the algorithm are compared with 0°C heights from nearby radiosonde observations and from model analyses for three different regions in the United States. In addition, reflectivity observations from an independent, vertically pointing radar situated in complex terrain are compared with results from the brightband algorithm operating on WSR-88D data. The output from the brightband algorithm matches observations well. A case is presented to show how the radar-observed brightband heights can be used to identify regions in precipitation products where radar is sampling within the melting layer and therefore may be subject to overestimation. Improved monitoring of the bright band, because of the comparatively high temporal resolution of the radar observations, results from application of the algorithm. The algorithm output can provide guidance to forecasters who are using radar-based quantitative precipitation estimates to issue advisories and warnings. Moreover, the melting-layer observations can be used with a digital elevation model to map the approximate rain–snow line.

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Kenneth W. Howard
,
Jonathan J. Gourley
, and
Robert A. Maddox

Abstract

Radar measurement uncertainties associated with storm top, cloud top, and other height measurements are well recognized; however, the authors feel the resulting impacts on the trends of storm features are not as well documented or understood by some users of the WSR-88D system. Detailed examination of radar-measured life cycles of thunderstorms occurring in Arizona indicates substantial limitations in the WSR-88D’s capability to depict certain aspects of storm-height attribute evolution (i.e., life cycle) accurately. These inherent limitations are illustrated using a vertical reflectivity structure model for the life cycle of a simple, “single-pulse” thunderstorm. The life cycle of this simple storm is “scanned” at varying ranges and translation speeds. The results show that radar-determined trends are often substantially different from those of the model storm and that in extreme cases the radar-detected storm and the model storm can have trends in storm-top height of opposite sign. Caution is clearly required by both the operational and research users of some products derived from operational WSR-88D data.

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R. A. Maddox
,
D. S. Zaras
,
P. L. MacKeen
,
J. J. Gourley
,
R. Rabin
, and
K. W. Howard

Abstract

The new Doppler radars of the National Weather Service (i.e., the WSR-88D radars) are operated continuously in a volume scanning mode (called Volume Coverage Pattern, VCP) with the elevation tilt angles fixed for several VCPs. Because of the fixed VCPs, the radar data can be used to determine the heights of precipitation echo features only to limits of accuracy that depend upon the elevation angles used in the VCP, the radar beamwidth, and the range of echoes. Data from adjacent WSR-88D radars, if used simultaneously, could reduce significantly the height uncertainties inherent in single radar measurements. This is illustrated for idealized situations and also for an event involving a long-lived, tornadic thunderstorm. The use of coordinated scan strategies and combined data analysis procedures for adjacent WSR-88D radars during significant thunderstorm events should be considered for operational applications.

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Robert A. Maddox
,
Jian Zhang
,
Jonathan J. Gourley
, and
Kenneth W. Howard

Abstract

Terrain and radar beam-elevation data are used to examine the spatial coverage provided by the national operational network of Doppler weather radars. This information is of importance to a wide variety of users, and potential users, of radar data from the national network. Charts generated for radar coverage at 3 and 5 km above mean sea level show that radar surveillance near 700 and 500 hPa is very limited for some portions of the contiguous United States. Radar coverage charts at heights of 1, 2, and 3 km above ground level illustrate the extent of low-level radar data gathered above the actual land surface. These maps indicate how restricted the national radar network coverage is at low levels, which limits the usefulness of the radar data, especially for quantitative precipitation estimation. The analyses also identify several regions of the contiguous United States in which weather phenomena are sampled by many adjacent radars. Thus, these regions are characterized by very comprehensive radar information that could be used in many kinds of research studies.

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Jonathan J. Gourley
,
Jessica M. Erlingis
,
Yang Hong
, and
Ernest B. Wells

Abstract

This paper evaluates, for the first time, flash-flood guidance (FFG) values and recently developed gridded FFG (GFFG) used by the National Weather Service (NWS) to monitor and predict imminent flash flooding, which is the leading storm-related cause of death in the United States. It is envisioned that results from this study will be used 1) to establish benchmark performance of existing operational flash-flood prediction tools and 2) to provide information to NWS forecasters that reveals how the existing tools can be readily optimized. Sources used to evaluate the products include official reports of flash floods from the NWS Storm Data database, discharge measurements on small basins available from the U.S. Geological Survey, and witness reports of flash flooding collected during the Severe Hazards Analysis and Verification Experiment. Results indicated that the operational guidance values, with no calibration, were marginally skillful, with the highest critical success index of 0.20 occurring with 3-h GFFG. The false-alarm rates fell and the skill improved to 0.34 when the rainfall was first spatially averaged within basins and then reached 50% of FFG for 1-h accumulation and exceeded 3-h FFG. Although the skill of the GFFG values was generally lower than that of their FFG counterparts, GFFG was capable of detecting the spatial variability of reported flash flooding better than FFG was for a case study in an urban setting.

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Robert A. Clark
,
Jonathan J. Gourley
,
Zachary L. Flamig
,
Yang Hong
, and
Edward Clark

Abstract

This study quantifies the skill of the National Weather Service’s (NWS) flash flood guidance (FFG) product. Generated by River Forecast Centers (RFCs) across the United States, local NWS Weather Forecast Offices compare estimated and forecast rainfall to FFG to monitor and assess flash flooding potential. A national flash flood observation database consisting of reports in the NWS publication Storm Data and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) stream gauge measurements are used to determine the skill of FFG over a 4-yr period. FFG skill is calculated at several different precipitation-to-FFG ratios for both observation datasets. Although a ratio of 1.0 nominally indicates a potential flash flooding event, this study finds that FFG can be more skillful when ratios other than 1.0 are considered. When the entire continental United States is considered, the highest observed critical success index (CSI) with 1-h FFG is 0.20 for the USGS dataset, which should be considered a benchmark for future research that seeks to improve, modify, or replace the current FFG system. Regional benchmarks of FFG skill are also determined on an RFC-by-RFC basis. When evaluated against Storm Data reports, the regional skill of FFG ranges from 0.00 to 0.19. When evaluated against USGS stream gauge measurements, the regional skill of FFG ranges from 0.00 to 0.44.

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Steven M. Martinaitis
,
Benjamin Albright
,
Jonathan J. Gourley
,
Sarah Perfater
,
Tiffany Meyer
,
Zachary L. Flamig
,
Robert A. Clark
,
Humberto Vergara
, and
Mark Klein

Abstract

The flash flood event of 23 June 2016 devastated portions of West Virginia and west-central Virginia, resulting in 23 fatalities and 5 new record river crests. The flash flooding was part of a multiday event that was classified as a billion-dollar disaster. The 23 June 2016 event occurred during real-time operations by two Hydrometeorology Testbed (HMT) experiments. The Flash Flood and Intense Rainfall (FFaIR) experiment focused on the 6–24-h forecast through the utilization of experimental high-resolution deterministic and ensemble numerical weather prediction and hydrologic model guidance. The HMT Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor Hydro (HMT-Hydro) experiment concentrated on the 0–6-h time frame for the prediction and warning of flash floods primarily through the experimental Flooded Locations and Simulated Hydrographs product suite. This study describes the various model guidance, applications, and evaluations from both testbed experiments during the 23 June 2016 flash flood event. Various model outputs provided a significant precipitation signal that increased the confidence of FFaIR experiment participants to issue a high risk for flash flooding for the region between 1800 UTC 23 June and 0000 UTC 24 June. Experimental flash flood warnings issued during the HMT-Hydro experiment for this event improved the probability of detection and resulted in a 63.8% increase in lead time to 84.2 min. Isolated flash floods in Kentucky demonstrated the potential to reduce the warned area. Participants characterized how different model guidance and analysis products influenced the decision-making process and how the experimental products can help shape future national and local flash flood operations.

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