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Stephen S. Weygandt and Nelson L. Seaman

Abstract

To quantitatively assess numerical predictive skill for synoptic and mesoscale features as a function of horizontal grid resolution, a series of experiments is conducted using the Pennsylvania State University-National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesoscale Model. For eight cases of continental cyclogenesis, 72-h integrations are examined using grids of 160, 80, and 26.7 km. First, we briefly examine error statistics for synoptic-scale cyclones and anticyclones. Next, a detailed analysis of model errors for mesoscale features is presented. A bandpass filtering technique, based on the Barnes objective analysis scheme, is used to separate perturbation quantities associated with the mesoscale features from the synoptic-scale fields. Error statistics are then compiled for various mesoscale features, including the intensity of mesolows, damming ridges, and postfrontal troughs, and the thermal gradients, propagation speed, and vertical velocity maxima associated with surface cold fronts. Finally, the accuracy of the predicted precipitation fields, produced using the Anthes-Kuo cumulus parameterization, is examined.

Objective verification reveals that forecast skill does not improve uniformly for all types of mesoscale features as horizontal grid resolution is increased, although the general trend is for reduced errors as expected. Improvements do occur on both the 80- and 27-km grids for all geographically related mesoscale features (such as orographic lee troughs). A similar improvement is seen for propagating mesoscale features (such as postfrontal troughs) and synoptic-scale cyclones as the grid length is reduced from 160 to 80 km. However, when the grid length is further reduced to 27 km, mean absolute errors and mean position errors actually increase for both classes of features. This greater variability in model performance suggests that as grid resolution is enhanced, other factors such as the accuracy of model physics and initial conditions become increasingly important.

The effect on precipitation bias and threat scores in these experiments is positive (reduced errors) when resolution is improved from 160 to 80 km but is generally insignificant or negative for the 27-km grid. Based on these results, the Anthes-Kuo convective parameterization used in these experiments is not recommended for application on grids of about 30 km or less.

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Stephen S. Weygandt, Alan Shapiro, and Kelvin K. Droegemeier

Abstract

In this two-part study, a single-Doppler parameter retrieval technique is developed and applied to a real-data case to provide model initial conditions for a short-range prediction of a supercell thunderstorm. The technique consists of the sequential application of a single-Doppler velocity retrieval (SDVR), followed by a variational velocity adjustment, a thermodynamic retrieval, and a moisture specification step. In Part I, the SDVR procedure is described and results from its application to a supercell thunderstorm are presented. In Part II, results from the thermodynamic retrieval and the numerical model prediction for this same case are presented. For comparison, results from parallel sets of experiments using dual-Doppler-derived winds and winds obtained from the simplified velocity retrieval described in Part I are also shown.

Following the SDVR, the retrieved wind fields (available only within the storm volume) are blended with a base-state background field obtained from a proximity sounding. The blended fields are then variationally adjusted to preserve anelastic mass conservation and the observed radial velocity. A Gal-Chen type thermodynamic retrieval procedure is then applied to the adjusted wind fields. For all experiments (full retrieval, simplified retrieval, and dual Doppler), the resultant perturbation pressure and potential temperature fields agree qualitatively with expectations for a deep-convective storm. An analysis of the magnitude of the various terms in the vertical momentum equation for both the full retrieval and dual-Doppler experiments indicates a reasonable agreement with predictions from linear theory. In addition, the perturbation pressure and vorticity fields for both the full retrieval and dual-Doppler experiments are in reasonable agreement with linear theory predictions for deep convection in sheared flow.

Following a simple moisture specification step, short-range numerical predictions are initiated for both retrieval experiments and the dual-Doppler experiment. In the full single-Doppler retrieval and dual-Doppler cases, the general storm evolution and deviant storm motion are reasonably well predicted for a period of about 35 minutes. In contrast, the storm initialized using the simplified wind retrieval decays too rapidly, indicating that the additional information obtained by the full wind retrieval (primarily low-level polar vorticity) is vital to the success of the numerical prediction. Sensitivity experiments using the initial fields from the full retrieval indicate that the predicted storm evolution is strongly dependent on the initial moisture fields. Overall, the numerical prediction results suggest at least some degree of short-term predictability for this storm and provide an impetus for continued development of single-Doppler retrieval procedures.

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Stephen S. Weygandt, Alan Shapiro, and Kelvin K. Droegemeier

Abstract

In this two-part study, a single-Doppler parameter retrieval technique is developed and applied to a real-data case to provide initial conditions for a short-range prediction of a supercell thunderstorm. The technique consists of the sequential application of a single-Doppler velocity retrieval (SDVR), followed by a variational velocity adjustment, a thermodynamic retrieval, and a moisture specification step. By utilizing a sequence of retrievals in this manner, some of the difficulties associated with full-model adjoints (possible solution nonuniqueness and large computational expense) can be circumvented. In Part I, the SDVR procedure and present results from its application to a deep-convective storm are discussed. Part II focuses on the thermodynamic retrieval and subsequent numerical prediction.

For the SDVR, Shapiro's reflectivity conservation-based method is adapted by applying it in a moving reference frame. Verification of the retrieved wind fields against corresponding dual-Doppler analyses indicates that the best skill scores are obtained for a reference frame moving with the mean wind, which effectively reduces the problem to a perturbation retrieval. A decomposition of the retrieved wind field into mean and perturbation components shows that the mean wind accounts for a substantial portion of the total retrieved azimuthal velocity. At low levels, where the retrieval skill scores are especially good, the retrieved perturbation azimuthal velocity is mostly associated with the polar component of vorticity. Missing from the retrieved fields (compared to the dual-Doppler analysis) is most of the low-level azimuthal convergence. Consistent with this result, most of the retrieved updraft is associated with convergence of the perturbation radial velocity, which is calculated from the observed radial velocity and directly used in the wind retrieval.

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Haidao Lin, Stephen S. Weygandt, Stanley G. Benjamin, and Ming Hu

Abstract

Assimilation of satellite radiance data in limited-area, rapidly updating weather model/assimilation systems poses unique challenges compared to those for global model systems. Principal among these is the severe data restriction posed by the short data cutoff time. Also, the limited extent of the model domain reduces the spatial extent of satellite data coverage and the lower model top of regional models reduces the spectral usage of radiance data especially for infrared data. These three factors impact the quality of the feedback to the bias correction procedures, making the procedures potentially less effective. Within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Rapid Refresh (RAP) hourly updating prediction system, satellite radiance data are assimilated using the standard procedures within the Gridpoint Statistical Interpolation (GSI) analysis package. Experiments for optimizing the operational implementation of radiance data into RAP and for improving benefits of radiance data have been performed. The radiance data impact for short-range forecasts has been documented to be consistent and statistically significantly positive in systematic RAP retrospective runs using real-time datasets. The radiance data impact has also been compared with conventional observation datasets within RAP. The configuration for RAP satellite radiance assimilation evaluated here is that implemented at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) in August 2016.

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Kefeng Zhu, Yujie Pan, Ming Xue, Xuguang Wang, Jeffrey S. Whitaker, Stanley G. Benjamin, Stephen S. Weygandt, and Ming Hu

Abstract

A regional ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF) system is established for potential Rapid Refresh (RAP) operational application. The system borrows data processing and observation operators from the gridpoint statistical interpolation (GSI), and precalculates observation priors using the GSI. The ensemble square root Kalman filter (EnSRF) algorithm is used, which updates both the state vector and observation priors. All conventional observations that are used in the operational RAP GSI are assimilated. To minimize computational costs, the EnKF is run at ⅓ of the operational RAP resolution or about 40-km grid spacing, and its performance is compared to the GSI using the same datasets and resolution. Short-range (up to 18 h, the RAP forecast length) forecasts are verified against soundings, surface observations, and precipitation data. Experiments are run with 3-hourly assimilation cycles over a 9-day convectively active retrospective period from spring 2010. The EnKF performance was improved by extensive tuning, including the use of height-dependent covariance localization scales and adaptive covariance inflation. When multiple physics parameterization schemes are employed by the EnKF, forecast errors are further reduced, especially for relative humidity and temperature at the upper levels and for surface variables. The best EnKF configuration produces lower forecast errors than the parallel GSI run. Gilbert skill scores of precipitation forecasts on the 13-km RAP grid initialized from the 3-hourly EnKF analyses are consistently better than those from GSI analyses.

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Yujie Pan, Kefeng Zhu, Ming Xue, Xuguang Wang, Ming Hu, Stanley G. Benjamin, Stephen S. Weygandt, and Jeffrey S. Whitaker

Abstract

A coupled ensemble square root filter–three-dimensional ensemble-variational hybrid (EnSRF–En3DVar) data assimilation (DA) system is developed for the operational Rapid Refresh (RAP) forecasting system. The En3DVar hybrid system employs the extended control variable method, and is built on the NCEP operational gridpoint statistical interpolation (GSI) three-dimensional variational data assimilation (3DVar) framework. It is coupled with an EnSRF system for RAP, which provides ensemble perturbations. Recursive filters (RF) are used to localize ensemble covariance in both horizontal and vertical within the En3DVar. The coupled En3DVar hybrid system is evaluated with 3-h cycles over a 9-day period with active convection. All conventional observations used by operational RAP are included. The En3DVar hybrid system is run at ⅓ of the operational RAP horizontal resolution or about 40-km grid spacing, and its performance is compared to parallel GSI 3DVar and EnSRF runs using the same datasets and resolution. Short-term forecasts initialized from the 3-hourly analyses are verified against sounding and surface observations. When using equally weighted static and ensemble background error covariances and 40 ensemble members, the En3DVar hybrid system outperforms the corresponding GSI 3DVar and EnSRF. When the recursive filter coefficients are tuned to achieve a similar height-dependent localization as in the EnSRF, the En3DVar results using pure ensemble covariance are close to EnSRF. Two-way coupling between EnSRF and En3DVar did not produce noticeable improvement over one-way coupling. Downscaled precipitation forecast skill on the 13-km RAP grid from the En3DVar hybrid is better than those from GSI 3DVar analyses.

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Ming Hu, Stanley G. Benjamin, Therese T. Ladwig, David C. Dowell, Stephen S. Weygandt, Curtis R. Alexander, and Jeffrey S. Whitaker

Abstract

The Rapid Refresh (RAP) is an hourly updated regional meteorological data assimilation/short-range model forecast system running operationally at NOAA/National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) using the community Gridpoint Statistical Interpolation analysis system (GSI). This paper documents the application of the GSI three-dimensional hybrid ensemble–variational assimilation option to the RAP high-resolution, hourly cycling system and shows the skill improvements of 1–12-h forecasts of upper-air wind, moisture, and temperature over the purely three-dimensional variational analysis system. Use of perturbation data from an independent global ensemble, the Global Data Assimilation System (GDAS), is demonstrated to be very effective for the regional RAP hybrid assimilation. In this paper, application of the GSI-hybrid assimilation for the RAP is explained. Results from sensitivity experiments are shown to define configurations for the operational RAP version 2, the ratio of static and ensemble background error covariance, and vertical and horizontal localization scales for the operational RAP version 3. Finally, a 1-week RAP experiment from a summer period was performed using a global ensemble from a winter period, suggesting that a significant component of its multivariate covariance structure from the ensemble is independent of time matching between analysis time and ensemble valid time.

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Haidao Lin, Stephen S. Weygandt, Agnes H. N. Lim, Ming Hu, John M. Brown, and Stanley G. Benjamin

Abstract

This study describes the initial application of radiance bias correction and channel selection in the hourly updated Rapid Refresh model. For this initial application, data from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) are used; this dataset gives atmospheric temperature and water vapor information at higher vertical resolution and accuracy than previously launched low-spectral resolution satellite systems. In this preliminary study, data from AIRS are shown to add skill to short-range weather forecasts over a relatively data-rich area. Two 1-month retrospective runs were conducted to evaluate the impact of assimilating clear-sky AIRS radiance data on 1–12-h forecasts using a research version of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Rapid Refresh (RAP) regional mesoscale model already assimilating conventional and other radiance [AMSU-A, Microwave Humidity Sounder (MHS), HIRS-4] data. Prior to performing the assimilation, a channel selection and bias-correction spinup procedure was conducted that was appropriate for the RAP configuration. RAP forecasts initialized from analyses with and without AIRS data were verified against radiosonde, surface atmosphere, precipitation, and satellite radiance observations. Results show that the impact from AIRS radiance data on short-range forecast skill in the RAP system is small but positive and statistically significant at the 95% confidence level. The RAP-specific channel selection and bias correction procedures described in this study were the basis for similar applications to other radiance datasets now assimilated in version 3 of RAP implemented at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) in August 2016.

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Stephen S. Weygandt, Stanley G. Benjamin, Ming Hu, Curtis R. Alexander, Tatiana G. Smirnova, and Eric P. James

Abstract

A technique for model initialization using three-dimensional radar reflectivity data has been developed and applied within the NOAA 13-km Rapid Refresh (RAP) and 3-km High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) regional forecast systems. This technique enabled the first assimilation of radar reflectivity data for operational NOAA forecast models, critical especially for more accurate short-range prediction of convective storms. For the RAP, the technique uses a diabatic digital filter initialization (DFI) procedure originally deployed to control initial inertial gravity wave noise. Within the forward-model integration portion of diabatic DFI, temperature tendencies obtained from the model cloud/precipitation processes are replaced by specified latent heating–based temperature tendencies derived from the three-dimensional radar reflectivity data, where available. To further refine initial conditions for the convection-allowing HRRR model, a similar procedure is used in the HRRR, but without DFI. Both of these procedures, together called the “Radar-LHI” (latent heating initialization) technique, have been essential for initialization of ongoing precipitation systems, especially convective systems, within all NOAA operational versions of the 13-km RAP and 3-km HRRR models extending through the latest implementation upgrade at NCEP in 2020. Application of the latent heat–derived temperature tendency induces a vertical circulation with low-level convergence and upper-level divergence in precipitation systems. Retrospective tests of the Radar-LHI technique show significant improvement in short-range (0–6 h) precipitation system forecasts, as revealed by reflectivity verification scores. Results presented document the impact on HRRR reflectivity forecasts of the radar reflectivity initialization technique applied to the RAP alone, HRRR alone, and both the RAP and HRRR.

Significance Statement

The large forecast uncertainty of convective situations, even at short lead times, coupled with the hazardous weather they produce, makes convective storm prediction one of the most significant short-range forecast challenges confronting the operational numerical weather prediction community. Prediction of heavy precipitation events also requires accurate initialization of precipitation systems. An innovative assimilation technique using radar reflectivity data to initialize NOAA operational weather prediction models is described. This technique, which uses latent heating specified from radar reflectivity (and can accommodate lightning data and other convection/precipitation indicators), was first implemented in 2009 at NOAA/NCEP and continues to be used in 2022 in the NCEP-operational RAP and HRRR models, making it a backbone of the NOAA rapidly updated numerical weather prediction capability.

Open access
Eric P. James, Curtis R. Alexander, David C. Dowell, Stephen S. Weygandt, Stanley G. Benjamin, Geoffrey S. Manikin, John M. Brown, Joseph B. Olson, Ming Hu, Tatiana G. Smirnova, Terra Ladwig, Jaymes S. Kenyon, and David D. Turner

Abstract

The High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) is a convection-allowing implementation of the Advanced Research version of the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF-ARW) Model that covers the conterminous United States and Alaska and runs hourly (for CONUS; every 3 h for Alaska) in real time at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. The high-resolution forecasts support a variety of user applications including aviation, renewable energy, and prediction of many forms of severe weather. In this second of two articles, forecast performance is documented for a wide variety of forecast variables and across HRRR versions. HRRR performance varies across geographical domain, season, and time of day depending on both prevalence of particular meteorological phenomena and the availability of both conventional and nonconventional observations. Station-based verification of surface weather forecasts (2-m temperature and dewpoint temperature, 10-m winds, visibility, and cloud ceiling) highlights the ability of the HRRR to represent daily planetary boundary layer evolution and the development of convective and stratiform cloud systems, while gridded verification of simulated composite radar reflectivity and quantitative precipitation forecasts reveals HRRR predictive skill for summer and winter precipitation systems. Significant improvements in performance for specific forecast problems are documented for the upgrade versions of the HRRR (HRRRv2, v3, and v4) implemented in 2016, 2018, and 2020, respectively. Development of the HRRR model data assimilation and physics paves the way for future progress with operational convective-scale modeling.

Significance Statement

NOAA’s operational hourly updating convection-allowing model, the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR), is a key tool for short-range weather forecasting and situational awareness. Improvements in assimilation of weather observations, as well as in physics parameterizations, has led to improvements in simulated radar reflectivity and quantitative precipitation forecasts since the initial implementation of HRRR in September 2014. Other targeted development has focused on improved representation of the diurnal cycle of the planetary boundary layer, resulting in improved near-surface temperature and humidity forecasts. Additional physics and data assimilation changes have led to improved treatment of the development and erosion of low-level clouds, including subgrid-scale clouds. The final version of HRRR features storm-scale ensemble data assimilation and explicit prediction of wildfire smoke plumes.

Open access