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Juanzhen Sun, Hongli Wang, Wenxue Tong, Ying Zhang, Chung-Yi Lin, and Dongmei Xu


The momentum variables of streamfunction and velocity potential are used as control variables in a number of operational variational data assimilation systems. However, in this study it is shown that, for limited-area high-resolution data assimilation, the momentum control variables ψ and χ (ψχ) pose potential difficulties in background error modeling and, hence, may result in degraded analysis and forecast when compared with the direct use of x and y components of wind (UV). In this study, the characteristics of the modeled background error statistics, derived from an ensemble generated from Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model real-time forecasts of two summer months, are first compared between the two control variable options. Assimilation and forecast experiments are then conducted with both options for seven convective events in a domain that encompasses the Rocky Mountain Front Range using the three-dimensional variational data assimilation (3DVar) system of the WRF Model. The impacts of the two control variable options are compared in terms of their skills in short-term qualitative precipitation forecasts. Further analysis is performed for one case to examine the impacts when radar observations are included in the 3DVar assimilation. The main findings are as follows: 1) the background error modeling used in WRF 3DVar with the control variables ψχ increases the length scale and decreases the variance for u and υ, which causes negative impact on the analysis of the velocity field and on precipitation prediction; 2) the UV-based 3DVar allows closer fits to radar wind observations; and 3) the use of UV control variables improves the 0–12-h precipitation prediction.

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