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Forest Cannon, Nina S. Oakley, Chad W. Hecht, Allison Michaelis, Jason M. Cordeira, Brian Kawzenuk, Reuben Demirdjian, Rachel Weihs, Meredith A. Fish, Anna M. Wilson, and F. Martin Ralph

Abstract

Short-duration, high-intensity rainfall in Southern California, often associated with narrow cold-frontal rainbands (NCFR), threaten life and property. While the mechanisms that drive NCFRs are relatively well understood, their regional characteristics, specific contribution to precipitation hazards, and their predictability in the western United States have received little research attention relative to their impact. This manuscript presents observations of NCFR physical processes made during the Atmospheric River Reconnaissance field campaign on 2 February 2019 and investigates the predictability of the observed NCFR across spatiotemporal scales and forecast lead time. Dropsonde data collected along transects of an atmospheric river (AR) and its attendant cyclone during rapid cyclogenesis, and radiosonde observations during landfall 24 h later, are used to demonstrate that a configuration of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model skillfully reproduces the physical processes responsible for the development and maintenance of the impactful NCFR. Ensemble simulations provide quantitative uncertainty information on the representation of these features in numerical weather prediction and instill confidence in the utility of WRF as a forecast guidance tool for short- to medium-range prediction of mesoscale precipitation processes in landfalling ARs. This research incorporates novel data and methodologies to improve forecast guidance for NCFRs impacting Southern California. While this study focuses on a single event, the outlined approach to observing and predicting high-impact weather across a range of spatial and temporal scales will support regional water management and hazard mitigation, in general.

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