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

Abstract

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

Abstract

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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Carolyn A. Reynolds
,
Rebecca E. Stone
,
James D. Doyle
,
Nancy L. Baker
,
Anna M. Wilson
,
F. Martin Ralph
,
David A. Lavers
,
Aneesh C. Subramanian
, and
Luca Centurioni

Abstract

Under the Atmospheric River Reconnaissance (AR Recon) Program, ocean drifting buoys (drifters) that provide surface pressure observations were deployed in the northeastern Pacific Ocean to improve forecasts of U.S. West Coast high-impact weather. We examine the impacts of both AR Recon and non-AR Recon drifter observations in the U.S. Navy’s global atmospheric data assimilation (DA) and forecast system using data-denial experiments and forecast sensitivity observation impact (FSOI) analysis, which estimates the impact of each observation on the 24-h global forecast error total energy. Considering all drifters in the eastern North Pacific for the 2020 AR Recon season, FSOI indicates that most of the beneficial impacts come from observations in the lowest quartile of observed surface pressure values, particularly those taken late in the DA window. Observations in the upper quartile have near-neutral impacts on average and are slightly nonbeneficial when taken late in the DA window. This may occur because the DA configuration used here does not account for model biases, and innovation statistics show that the forecast model has a low pressure bias at high pressures. Case studies and other analyses indicate large beneficial impacts coming from observations in regions with large surface pressure gradients and integrated vapor transport, such as fronts and ARs. Data-denial experiments indicate that the assimilation of AR Recon drifter observations results in a better-constrained analysis at nearby non-AR Recon drifter locations and counteracts the NAVGEM pressure bias. Assimilating the AR Recon drifter observations improves 72- and 96-h Northern Hemisphere forecasts of winds in the lower and middle troposphere, and geopotential height in the lower, middle, and upper troposphere.

Significance Statement

The purpose of this study is to understand how observations of atmospheric pressure at the ocean surface provided by drifting buoys impact weather forecasts. Some of these drifting buoys were deployed under a program to study atmospheric rivers (ARs) to improve forecasts of high-impact weather on the West Coast. We find that these observations are most effective at reducing forecast errors when taken in regions near fronts and cyclones. The additional drifting buoys deployed under the AR Reconnaissance project reduce forecast errors at 72 and 96 h over North America and the Northern Hemisphere. These results are important because they illustrate the potential for improving forecasts by increasing the number of drifting buoy surface pressure observations over the world oceans.

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