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Zuohao Cao and Da-Lin Zhang

Abstract

Despite considerable progress in mesoscale numerical weather prediction (NWP), the ability to predict summer severe rainfall (SSR) in terms of amount, location, and timing remains very limited because of its association with convective or mesoscale phenomena. In this study, two representative missed SSR events that occurred in the highly populated Great Lakes regions are analyzed within the context of moisture availability, convective instability, and lifting mechanism in order to help identify the possible causes of these events and improve SSR forecasts/nowcasts. Results reveal the following limitations of the Canadian regional NWP model in predicting SSR events: 1) the model-predicted rainfall is phase shifted to an undesired location that is likely caused by the model initial condition errors, and 2) the model is unable to resolve the echo-training process because of the weakness of the parameterized convection and/or coarse resolutions. These limitations are related to the ensuing model-predicted features: 1) vertical motion in the areas of SSR occurrence is unfavorable for triggering parameterized convection and grid-scale condensation; 2) convective available potential energy is lacking for initial model spinup and later for elevating latent heating to higher levels through parameterized convection, giving rise to less precipitation; and 3) the conversion of water vapor into cloud water at the upper and middle levels is underpredicted. Recommendations for future improvements are discussed.

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Nannan Qin and Da-Lin Zhang

Abstract

Hurricane Patricia (2015) broke records in both peak intensity and rapid intensification (RI) rate over the eastern Pacific basin. All of the then-operational models predicted less than half of its extraordinary intensity and RI rate, leaving a challenge for numerical modeling studies. In this study, a successful 42-h simulation of Patricia is obtained using a quintuply nested-grid version of the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) Model with the finest grid size of 333 m. Results show that the WRF Model, initialized with the Global Forecast System Final Analysis data only, could reproduce the track, peak intensity, and many inner-core features, as verified against various observations. In particular, its simulated maximum surface wind of 92 m s−1 is close to the observed 95 m s−1, capturing the unprecedented RI rate of 54 m s−1 (24 h)−1. In addition, the model reproduces an intense warm-cored eye, a small-sized eyewall with a radius of maximum wind of less than 10 km, and the distribution of narrow spiral rainbands. A series of sensitivity simulations is performed to help understand which model configurations are essential to reproducing the extraordinary intensity of the storm. Results reveal that Patricia’s extraordinary development and its many inner-core structures could be reasonably well simulated if ultrahigh horizontal resolution, appropriate model physics, and realistic initial vortex intensity are incorporated. It is concluded that the large-scale conditions (e.g., warm sea surface temperature, weak vertical wind shear, and the moist intertropical convergence zone) and convective organization play important roles in determining the predictability of Patricia’s extraordinary RI and peak intensity.

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Stéphane Bélair, Da-Lin Zhang, and Jocelyn Mailhot

Abstract

In an effort to improve operational forecasts of mesoscale convective systems (MCSs), a mesoscale version of the operational Canadian Regional Finite-Element (RFE) Model with a grid size of 25 km is used to predict an intense MCS that occurred during 10–11 June 1985. The mesoscale version of the RFE model contains the Fritsch–Chappell scheme for the treatment of subgrid-scale convective processes and an explicit scheme for the treatment of grid-scale cloud water (ice) and rainwater (snow).

With higher resolution and improved condensation physics, the RFE model reproduces many detailed structures of the MCS, as compared with all available observations. In particular, the model predicts well the timing and location of the leading convective line followed by stratiform precipitation; the distribution of surface temperature and pressure perturbations (e.g., cold outflow boundaries, mesolows, mesohighs, and wake lows); and the circulation of front-to-rear flows at both upper and lower levels separated by a rear-to-front flow at midlevels.

Several sensitivity experiments are performed to examine the effects of varying initial conditions and model physics on the prediction of the squall system. It is found that both the moist convective adjustment and the Kuo schemes can reproduce the line structure of convective precipitation. However, these two schemes are unable to reproduce the internal flow structure of the squall system and the pertinent surface pressure and thermal perturbations. It is emphasized that as the grid resolution increases, reasonable treatments of both parameterized and grid-scale condensation processes are essential in obtaining realistic predictions of MCSs and associated quantitative precipitation.

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Nannan Qin, Da-Lin Zhang, and Ying Li

Abstract

It is well known that hurricane intensification is often accompanied by continuous contraction of the radius of maximum wind (RMW) and eyewall size. However, a few recent studies have shown rapid and then slow contraction of the RMW/eyewall size prior to the onset and during the early stages of rapid intensification (RI) of hurricanes, respectively, but a steady state in the RMW (S-RMW) and eyewall size during the later stages of RI. In this study, a statistical analysis of S-RMWs associated with rapidly intensifying hurricanes is performed using the extended best-track dataset during 1990–2014 in order to examine how frequently, and at what intensity and size, the S-RMW structure tends to occur. Results show that about 53% of the 139 RI events of 24-h duration associated with 55 rapidly intensifying hurricanes exhibit S-RMWs, and that the percentage of the S-RMW events increases to 69% when RI events are evaluated at 12-h intervals, based on a new RI rate definition of 10 m s−1 (12 h)−1; both results satisfy the Student’s t tests with confidence levels of over 95%. In general, S-RMWs tend to appear more frequently in more intense storms and when their RMWs are contracted to less than 50 km. This work suggests a new fruitful research area in studying the RI of hurricanes with S-RMWs.

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Chanh Q. Kieu, Hua Chen, and Da-Lin Zhang

Abstract

In this study, the dynamical constraints underlining the pressure–wind relationship (PWR) for intense tropical cyclones (TCs) are examined with the particular focus on the physical connections between the maximum surface wind (VMAX) and the minimum sea level pressure (PMIN). Use of the Rankine vortex demonstrates that the frictional forcing in the planetary boundary layer (PBL) could explain a sizeable portion of the linear contributions of VMAX to pressure drops. This contribution becomes increasingly important for intense TCs with small eye sizes, in which the radial inflows in the PBL could no longer be neglected. Furthermore, the inclusion of the tangential wind tendency can make an additional contribution to the pressure drops when coupled with the surface friction.

An examination of the double-eyewall configuration reveals that the formation of an outer eyewall or well-organized spiral rainbands complicates the PWR. An analysis of a cloud-resolving simulation of Hurricane Wilma (2005) shows that the outer eyewall could result in the continuous deepening of PMIN even with a constant VMAX. The results presented here suggest that (i) the TC size should be coupled with VMAX rather than being treated as an independent predictor as in the current PWRs, (ii) the TC intensity change should be at least coupled linearly with the radius of VMAX, and (iii) the radial wind in the PBL is of equal importance to the linear contribution of VMAX and its impact should be included in the PWR.

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Hua Chen, Da-Lin Zhang, James Carton, and Robert Atlas

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In this study, a 72-h cloud-permitting numerical prediction of Hurricane Wilma (2005), covering its initial 18-h spinup, an 18-h rapid intensification (RI), and the subsequent 36-h weakening stage, is performed using the Weather Research Forecast Model (WRF) with the finest grid length of 1 km. The model prediction uses the initial and lateral boundary conditions, including the bogus vortex, that are identical to the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory’s then-operational data, except for the time-independent sea surface temperature field. Results show that the WRF prediction compares favorably in many aspects to the best-track analysis, as well as satellite and reconnaissance flight-level observations. In particular, the model predicts an RI rate of more than 4 hPa h−1 for an 18-h period, with the minimum central pressure of less than 889 hPa. Of significance is that the model captures a sequence of important inner-core structural variations associated with Wilma’s intensity changes, namely, from a partial eyewall open to the west prior to RI to a full eyewall at the onset of RI, rapid eyewall contraction during the initial spinup, the formation of double eyewalls with a wide moat area in between during the most intense stage, and the subsequent eyewall replacement leading to the weakening of Wilma. In addition, the model reproduces the boundary layer growth up to 750 hPa with an intense inversion layer above in the eye. Recognizing that a single case does not provide a rigorous test of the model predictability due to the stochastic nature of deep convection, results presented herein suggest that it is possible to improve forecasts of hurricane intensity and intensity changes, and especially RI, if the inner-core structural changes and storm size could be reasonably predicted in an operational setting using high-resolution cloud-permitting models with realistic initial conditions and model physical parameterizations.

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Fan Zhang, Ming Li, Andrew C. Ross, Serena Blyth Lee, and Da-Lin Zhang

Abstract

Through a case study of Hurricane Arthur (2014), the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model and the Finite Volume Coastal Ocean Model (FVCOM) are used to investigate the sensitivity of storm surge forecasts to physics parameterizations and configurations of the initial and boundary conditions in WRF. The turbulence closure scheme in the planetary boundary layer affects the prediction of the storm intensity: the local closure scheme produces lower equivalent potential temperature than the nonlocal closure schemes, leading to significant reductions in the maximum surface wind speed and surge heights. On the other hand, higher-class cloud microphysics schemes overpredict the wind speed, resulting in large overpredictions of storm surge at some coastal locations. Without cumulus parameterization in the outermost domain, both the wind speed and storm surge are grossly underpredicted as a result of large precipitation decreases in the storm center. None of the choices for the WRF physics parameterization schemes significantly affect the prediction of Arthur’s track. Sea surface temperature affects the latent heat release from the ocean surface and thus storm intensity and storm surge predictions. The large-scale atmospheric circulation models provide the initial and boundary conditions for WRF, and influence both the track and intensity predictions, thereby changing the spatial distribution of storm surge along the coastline. These sensitivity analyses underline the need to use an ensemble modeling approach to improve the storm surge forecasts.

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William A. Gallus Jr., Brian Colle, Da-Lin Zhang, and Phil Schumacher
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John R. Gyakum, Marco Carrera, Da-Lin Zhang, Steve Miller, James Caveen, Robert Benoit, Thomas Black, Andrea Buzzi, Cliément Chouinard, M. Fantini, C. Folloni, Jack J. Katzfey, Ying-Hwa Kuo, François Lalaurette, Simon Low-Nam, Jocelyn Mailhot, P. Malguzzi, John L. McGregor, Masaomi Nakamura, Greg Tripoli, and Clive Wilson

Abstract

The authors evaluate the performance of current regional models in an intercomparison project for a case of explosive secondary marine cyclogenesis occurring during the Canadian Atlantic Storms Project and the Genesis of Atlantic Lows Experiment of 1986. Several systematic errors are found that have been identified in the refereed literature in prior years. There is a high (low) sea level pressure bias and a cold (warm) tropospheric temperature error in the oceanic (continental) regions. Though individual model participants produce central pressures of the secondary cyclone close to the observed during the final stages of its life cycle, systematically weak systems are simulated during the critical early stages of the cyclogenesis. Additionally, the simulations produce an excessively weak (strong) continental anticyclone (cyclone); implications of these errors are discussed in terms of the secondary cyclogenesis. Little relationship between strong performance in predicting the mass field and skill in predicting a measurable amount of precipitation is found. The bias scores in the precipitation study indicate a tendency for all models to overforecast precipitation. Results for the measurable threshold (0.2 mm) indicate the largest gain in precipitation scores results from increasing the horizontal resolution from 100 to 50 km, with a negligible benefit occurring as a consequence of increasing the resolution from 50 to 25 km. The importance of a horizontal resolution increase from 100 to 50 km is also generally shown for the errors in the mass field. However, little improvement in the prediction of the cyclogenesis is found by increasing the horizontal resolution from 50 to 25 km.

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