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David A. Lavers, N. Bruce Ingleby, Aneesh C. Subramanian, David S. Richardson, F. Martin Ralph, James D. Doyle, Carolyn A. Reynolds, Ryan D. Torn, Mark J. Rodwell, Vijay Tallapragada, and Florian Pappenberger

Abstract

A key aim of observational campaigns is to sample atmosphere–ocean phenomena to improve understanding of these phenomena, and in turn, numerical weather prediction. In early 2018 and 2019, the Atmospheric River Reconnaissance (AR Recon) campaign released dropsondes and radiosondes into atmospheric rivers (ARs) over the northeast Pacific Ocean to collect unique observations of temperature, winds, and moisture in ARs. These narrow regions of water vapor transport in the atmosphere—like rivers in the sky—can be associated with extreme precipitation and flooding events in the midlatitudes. This study uses the dropsonde observations collected during the AR Recon campaign and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Integrated Forecasting System (IFS) to evaluate forecasts of ARs. Results show that ECMWF IFS forecasts 1) were colder than observations by up to 0.6 K throughout the troposphere; 2) have a dry bias in the lower troposphere, which along with weaker winds below 950 hPa, resulted in weaker horizontal water vapor fluxes in the 950–1000-hPa layer; and 3) exhibit an underdispersiveness in the water vapor flux that largely arises from model representativeness errors associated with dropsondes. Four U.S. West Coast radiosonde sites confirm the IFS cold bias throughout winter. These issues are likely to affect the model’s hydrological cycle and hence precipitation forecasts.

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