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Benjamin C. Trabing and Michael M. Bell


The characteristics of official National Hurricane Center (NHC) intensity forecast errors are examined for the North Atlantic and east Pacific basins from 1989 to 2018. It is shown how rapid intensification (RI) and rapid weakening (RW) influence yearly NHC forecast errors for forecasts between 12 and 48 h in length. In addition to being the tail of the intensity change distribution, RI and RW are at the tails of the forecast error distribution. Yearly mean absolute forecast errors are positively correlated with the yearly number of RI/RW occurrences and explain roughly 20% of the variance in the Atlantic and 30% in the east Pacific. The higher occurrence of RI events in the east Pacific contributes to larger intensity forecast errors overall but also a better probability of detection and success ratio. Statistically significant improvements to 24-h RI forecast biases have been made in the east Pacific and to 24-h RW biases in the Atlantic. Over-ocean 24-h RW events cause larger mean errors in the east Pacific that have not improved with time. Environmental predictors from the Statistical Hurricane Intensity Prediction Scheme (SHIPS) are used to diagnose what conditions lead to the largest RI and RW forecast errors on average. The forecast error distributions widen for both RI and RW when tropical systems experience low vertical wind shear, warm sea surface temperature, and moderate low-level relative humidity. Consistent with existing literature, the forecast error distributions suggest that improvements to our observational capabilities, understanding, and prediction of inner-core processes is paramount to both RI and RW prediction.

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Russell L. Elsberry, Eric A. Hendricks, Christopher S. Velden, Michael M. Bell, Melinda Peng, Eleanor Casas, and Qingyun Zhao


A dynamic initialization assimilation scheme is demonstrated utilizing rapid-scan atmospheric motion vectors (AMVs) at 15-min intervals to simulate the real-time capability that now exists from the new generation of geostationary meteorological satellites. The impacts of these AMVs are validated with special Tropical Cyclone Intensity Experiment (TCI-15) datasets during 1200–1800 UTC 4 October leading up to a NASA WB-57 eyewall crossing of Hurricane Joaquin. Incorporating the AMV fields in the Spline Analysis at Mesoscale Utilizing Radar and Aircraft Instrumentation (SAMURAI) COAMPS Dynamic Initialization (SCDI) means there are 30 and 90 time steps on the 15- and 5-km grids, respectively, during which the mass fields are adjusted to these AMV-based wind increments during each 15-min assimilation period. The SCDI analysis of the three-dimensional vortex structure of Joaquin at 1800 UTC 4 October closely replicates the vortex tilt analyzed from the High-Definition Sounding System (HDSS) dropwindsondes. Vertical wind shears based on the AMVs at 15-min intervals are well correlated with the extreme rapid decay, an interruption of that rapid decay, and the subsequent period of constant intensity of Joaquin. Utilizing the SCDI analysis as the initial conditions for two versions of the COAMPS-TC model results in an accurate 72-h prediction of the interruption of the rapid decay and the period of constant intensity. Upscaling a similar SCDI analysis based on the 15-min interval AMVs provides a more realistic intensity and structure of Tropical Storm Joaquin for the initial conditions of the Navy Global Environmental Model (NAVGEM) than the synthetic TC vortex used operationally. This demonstration for a single 6-h period of AMVs indicates the potential for substantial impacts when an end-to-end cycling version is developed.

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Michelle L. L’Heureux, Michael K. Tippett, Ken Takahashi, Anthony G. Barnston, Emily J. Becker, Gerald D. Bell, Tom E. Di Liberto, Jon Gottschalck, Michael S. Halpert, Zeng-Zhen Hu, Nathaniel C. Johnson, Yan Xue, and Wanqiu Wang


Three strategies for creating probabilistic forecast outlooks for El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) are compared. One is subjective and is currently used by the NOAA/Climate Prediction Center (CPC) to produce official ENSO outlooks. A second is purely objective and is based on the North American Multimodel Ensemble (NMME). A new third strategy is proposed in which the forecaster only provides the expected value of the Niño-3.4 index, and then categorical probabilities are objectively determined based on past skill. The new strategy results in more confident probabilities compared to the subjective approach and higher verification scores, while avoiding the significant forecast busts that sometimes afflict the NMME-based objective approach. The higher verification scores of the new strategy appear to result from the added value that forecasters provide in predicting the mean, combined with more reliable representations of uncertainty, which is difficult to represent because forecasters often assume less confidence than is justified. Moreover, the new approach can produce higher-resolution probabilistic forecasts that include ENSO strength information and that are difficult, if not impossible, for forecasters to produce. To illustrate, a nine-category ENSO outlook based on the new strategy is assessed and found to be skillful. The new approach can be applied to other outlooks where users desire higher-resolution probabilistic forecasts, including the extremes.

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