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Carolyn A. Reynolds, James D. Doyle, F. Martin Ralph, and Reuben Demirdjian


The initial-state sensitivity and optimal perturbation growth for 24- and 36-h forecasts of low-level kinetic energy and precipitation over California during a series of atmospheric river (AR) events that took place in early 2017 are explored using adjoint-based tools from the Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction System (COAMPS). This time period was part of the record-breaking winter of 2016–17 in which several high-impact ARs made landfall in California. The adjoint sensitivity indicates that both low-level winds and precipitation are most sensitive to mid- to lower-tropospheric perturbations in the initial state in and near the ARs. A case study indicates that the optimal moist perturbations occur most typically along the subsaturated edges of the ARs, in a warm conveyor belt region. The sensitivity to moisture is largest, followed by temperature and winds. A 1 g kg−1 perturbation to moisture may elicit twice as large a response in kinetic energy and precipitation as a 1 m s−1 perturbation to the zonal or meridional wind. In an average sense, the sensitivity and related optimal perturbations are very similar for the kinetic energy and precipitation response functions. However, on a case-by-case basis, differences in the sensitivity magnitude and optimal perturbation structures result in substantially different forecast perturbations, suggesting that optimal adaptive observing strategies should be metric dependent. While the nonlinear evolved perturbations are usually smaller (by about 20%, on average) than the expected linear perturbations, the optimal perturbations are still capable of producing rapid nonlinear perturbation growth. The positive correlation between sensitivity magnitude and wind speed forecast error or precipitation forecast differences supports the relevance of adjoint-based calculations for predictability studies.

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Rebecca E. Stone, Carolyn A. Reynolds, James D. Doyle, Rolf H. Langland, Nancy L. Baker, David A. Lavers, and F. Martin Ralph


Atmospheric rivers, often associated with impactful weather along the west coast of North America, can be a challenge to forecast even on short time scales. This is attributed, at least in part, to the scarcity of eastern Pacific in situ observations. We examine the impact of assimilating dropsonde observations collected during the Atmospheric River (AR) Reconnaissance 2018 field program on the Navy Global Environmental Model (NAVGEM) analyses and forecasts. We compare NAVGEM’s representation of the ARs to the observations, and examine whether the observation–background difference statistics are similar to the observation error variance specified in the data assimilation system. Forecast sensitivity observation impact is determined for each dropsonde variable, and compared to the impacts of the North American radiosonde network. We find that the reconnaissance soundings have significant beneficial impact, with per observation impact more than double that of the North American radiosonde network. Temperature and wind observations have larger total and per observation impact than moisture observations. In our experiment, the 24-h global forecast error reduction from the reconnaissance soundings can be comparable to the reduction from the North American radiosonde network for the field program dates that include at least two flights.

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