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Stanley G. Benjamin, Brian D. Jamison, William R. Moninger, Susan R. Sahm, Barry E. Schwartz, and Thomas W. Schlatter


An assessment is presented on the relative forecast impact on the performance of a numerical weather prediction model from eight different observation data types: aircraft, profiler, radiosonde, velocity azimuth display (VAD), GPS-derived precipitable water, aviation routine weather report (METAR; surface), surface mesonet, and satellite-based atmospheric motion vectors. A series of observation sensitivity experiments was conducted using the Rapid Update Cycle (RUC) model/assimilation system in which various data sources were denied to assess the relative importance of the different data types for short-range (3–12 h) wind, temperature, and relative humidity forecasts at different vertical levels and near the surface. These experiments were conducted for two 10-day periods, one in November–December 2006 and one in August 2007. These experiments show positive short-range forecast impacts from most of the contributors to the heterogeneous observing system over the RUC domain. In particular, aircraft observations had the largest overall impact for forecasts initialized 3–6 h before 0000 or 1200 UTC, considered over the full depth (1000–100 hPa), followed by radiosonde observations, even though the latter are available only every 12 h. Profiler data (including at a hypothetical 8-km depth), GPS-precipitable water estimates, and surface observations also led to significant improvements in short-range forecast skill.

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