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Nathan M. Hitchens
,
Michael E. Baldwin
, and
Robert J. Trapp

Abstract

Extreme precipitation was identified in the midwestern United States using an object-oriented approach applied to the NCEP stage-II hourly precipitation dataset. This approach groups contiguous areas that exceed a user-defined threshold into “objects,” which then allows object attributes to be diagnosed. Those objects with precipitation maxima in the 99th percentile (>55 mm) were considered extreme, and there were 3484 such objects identified in the midwestern United States between 1996 and 2010. Precipitation objects ranged in size from hundreds to over 100 000 km2, and the maximum precipitation within each object varied between 55 and 104 mm. The majority of occurrences of extreme precipitation were in the summer (June, July, and August), and peaked in the afternoon into night (1900–0200 UTC) in the diurnal cycle. Consistent with the previous work by the authors, this study shows that the systems that produce extreme precipitation in the midwestern United States vary widely across the convective-storm spectrum.

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Kimberly L. Elmore
,
David M. Schultz
, and
Michael E. Baldwin

Abstract

A previous study of the mean spatial bias errors associated with operational forecast models motivated an examination of the mechanisms responsible for these biases. One hypothesis for the cause of these errors is that mobile synoptic-scale phenomena are partially responsible. This paper explores this hypothesis using 24-h forecasts from the operational Eta Model and an experimental version of the Eta run with Kain–Fritsch convection (EtaKF).

For a sample of 44 well-defined upper-level short-wave troughs arriving on the west coast of the United States, 70% were underforecast (as measured by the 500-hPa geopotential height), a likely result of being undersampled by the observational network. For a different sample of 45 troughs that could be tracked easily across the country, consecutive model runs showed that the height errors associated with 44% of the troughs generally decreased in time, 11% increased in time, 18% had relatively steady errors, 2% were uninitialized entering the West Coast, and 24% exhibited some other kind of behavior. Thus, landfalling short-wave troughs were typically underforecast (positive errors, heights too high), but these errors tended to decrease as they moved across the United States, likely a result of being better initialized as the troughs became influenced by more upper-air data. Nevertheless, some errors in short-wave troughs were not corrected as they fell under the influence of supposedly increased data amount and quality. These results indirectly show the effect that the amount and quality of observational data has on the synoptic-scale errors in the models. On the other hand, long-wave ridges tended to be underforecast (negative errors, heights too low) over a much larger horizontal extent.

These results are confirmed in a more systematic manner over the entire dataset by segregating the model output at each grid point by the sign of the 500-hPa relative vorticity. Although errors at grid points with positive relative vorticity are small but positive in the western United States, the errors become large and negative farther east. Errors at grid points with negative relative vorticity, on the other hand, are generally negative across the United States. A large negative bias observed in the Eta and EtaKF over the southeast United States is believed to be due to an error in the longwave radiation scheme interacting with water vapor and clouds. This study shows that model errors may be related to the synoptic-scale flow, and even large-scale features such as long-wave troughs can be associated with significant large-scale height errors.

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Michael E. Baldwin
,
John S. Kain
, and
S. Lakshmivarahan

Abstract

An automated procedure for classifying rainfall systems (meso-α scale and larger) was developed using an operational analysis of hourly precipitation estimates from radar and rain gauge data. The development process followed two main phases: a training phase and a testing phase. First, 48 hand-selected cases were used to create a training dataset, from which a set of attributes related to morphological aspects of rainfall systems were extracted. A hierarchy of classes for rainfall systems, in which the systems are separated into general convective (heavy rain) and nonconvective (light rain) classes, was envisioned. At the next level of classification hierarchy, convective events are divided into linear and cellular subclasses, and nonconvective events belong to the stratiform subclass. Essential attributes of precipitating systems, related to the rainfall intensity and degree of linear organization, were determined during the training phase. The attributes related to the rainfall intensity were chosen to be the parameters of the gamma probability distribution fit to observed rainfall amount frequency distributions using the generalized method of moments. Attributes related to the degree of spatial continuity of each rainfall system were acquired from correlogram analysis. Rainfall systems were categorized using hierarchical cluster analysis experiments with various combinations of these attributes. The combination of attributes that resulted in the best match between cluster analysis results and an expert classification were used as the basis for an automated classification procedure.

The development process shifted into the testing phase, where automated procedures for identifying and classifying rainfall systems were used to analyze every rainfall system in the contiguous 48 states during 2002. To allow for a feasible validation, a testing dataset was extracted from the 2002 data. The testing dataset consisted of 100 randomly selected rainfall systems larger than 40 000 km2 as identified by an automated identification system. This subset was shown to be representative of the full 2002 dataset. Finally, the automated classification procedure classified the testing dataset into stratiform, linear, and cellular classes with 85% accuracy, as compared to an expert classification.

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Kimberly L. Elmore
,
Michael E. Baldwin
, and
David M. Schultz

Abstract

The spatial structure of bias errors in numerical model output is valuable to both model developers and operational forecasters, especially if the field containing the structure itself has statistical significance in the face of naturally occurring spatial correlation. A semiparametric Monte Carlo method, along with a moving blocks bootstrap method is used to determine the field significance of spatial bias errors within spatially correlated error fields. This process can be completely automated, making it an attractive addition to the verification tools already in use. The process demonstrated here results in statistically significant spatial bias error fields at any arbitrary significance level.

To demonstrate the technique, 0000 and 1200 UTC runs of the operational Eta Model and the operational Eta Model using the Kain–Fritsch convective parameterization scheme are examined. The resulting fields for forecast errors for geopotential heights and winds at 850, 700, 500, and 250 hPa over a period of 14 months (26 January 2001–31 March 2002) are examined and compared using the verifying initial analysis. Specific examples are shown, and some plausible causes for the resulting significant bias errors are proposed.

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Carl E. Hane
,
Michael E. Baldwin
,
Howard B. Bluestein
,
Todd M. Crawford
, and
Robert M. Rabin

Abstract

Through a case study approach the motion of a dryline (on 16 May 1991) within a synoptically active environment in the southern plains, along which severe storms ultimately developed, is examined in detail. Observations from research aircraft, surface mesonetwork stations, mobile ballooning vehicles, radar, wind profilers, and operational surface and upper air networks are examined and combined. Additionally, output from the operational mesoscale Eta Model is examined to compare predictions of dryline motion with observations and to aid in interpretation of observations.

The dryline on this day advanced rapidly eastward and included formation of a bulge; additionally, in at least two instances it exhibited redevelopment (loss of definition at one location and gain at another). Aircraft observations revealed that an eastward redevelopment occurred in the early afternoon and was characterized by a series of four “steps” along the western edge of the boundary layer moisture. The westernmost and easternmost steps coincide with the locations of the dryline before and after redevelopment, respectively. The retreat of the dryline in the central and southern portion of the analysis domain in the late afternoon included both continuous motion and redevelopment toward the west-northwest. This dual-mode retreat of the dryline was accompanied by gradual backing of the winds and moistening in low levels.

The Eta Model forecast initialized at 1200 UTC produced dryline features that were qualitatively similar to observed fields. The eastward motion of a broad area of enhanced moisture gradient agreed well with observations following an initial spinup period. A north–south moisture convergence axis preceded the rapid eastward motion of the dryline by several hours. Lack of subsidence in the air behind the modeled dryline leads to the conclusion that processes other than downward transfer of horizontal momentum by larger-scale motions (that would support eastward advection) produced the rapid dryline motion and observed eastward dryline bulge. Results of diagnosing physical processes affecting model dryline motion point toward boundary layer vertical mixing coupled with advection of dry air aloft as vital components in rapid advance of the dryline eastward in this synoptically active case.

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Carl E. Hane
,
Howard B. Bluestein
,
Todd M. Crawford
,
Michael E. Baldwin
, and
Robert M. Rabin

Abstract

Long-lived thunderstorms were initiated during the afternoon of 26 May 1991 ahead of a dryline in northwestern Oklahoma. Various reasons for initiation in this particular along-dryline location are investigated through analysis of observations collected during the Cooperative Oklahoma Profiler Studies—1991 field program. Observing systems included in situ and radar instrumentation aboard a research aircraft, soundings from mobile laboratories, a mesonetwork of surface stations, meteorological satellites, and operational networks of surface and upper-air stations.

Elevated moistening east of the dryline revealed by soundings and aircraft observations in combination with thermal plume activity was apparently insufficient to promote sustained convection on this day without aid from an additional lifting mechanism. Satellite observations reveal scattered convection along the dryline by midafternoon and a convective cloud line intersecting the dryline at an angle in the area of most pronounced storm initiation, extending southwestward into the dry air. Another prominent feature on this day was a mesoscale bulge along the dryline extending northeastward into southwest Kansas. Deep convection was initiated along this bulge, but was in general short-lived.

Potential causes of the lifting associated with the cloud line that was apparently key to the preferred location for storm development in northwest Oklahoma were investigated: (a) a mesoscale circulation resulting from horizontal differences in radiative (temperature) properties of the underlying surface and (b) upward motion induced by an upper-level mesoscale disturbance. Analysis of vegetative and surface temperature distributions from satellite observations suggests a potential (more research is needed) link between surface characteristics and the development of the dryline bulge and observed cloud line through horizontal differences in vertical momentum transport. A run of the currently operational eta model indicates some skill in predicting dryline location and motion and predicts upward motion in the northern part of the region that was generally more convectively active, but shows no indication of upper-level support in the vicinity of the observed cloud line.

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Carl E. Hane
,
Robert M. Rabin
,
Todd M. Crawford
,
Howard B. Bluestein
, and
Michael E. Baldwin

Abstract

A dryline that occurred on 16 May 1991 within a synoptically active environment is examined in detail using research aircraft, radar, surface, satellite, and upper air observations. The work focuses on multiple boundaries in the dryline environment and initiation of tornadic storms in two along-line areas.

Aircraft measurements in the boundary layer reveal that both the east–west extent of moisture gradients and the number of regions containing large moisture gradients vary in the along-dryline direction. Aircraft penetrations of thinlines observed in clear air return from radar reveal that all thinlines are associated with convergence and a moisture gradient, and that more distinct thinlines are associated with stronger convergence. However, significant moisture gradients are not always associated with either thinlines or convergent signatures.

Convective clouds on this day formed at the dryline rather than significantly east of the dryline. The three thunderstorm cells that occurred in east-central Oklahoma developed along a 20-km section of the dryline south of a dryline bulge and within a 30-min period. The storms appear to have developed in this location owing to enhanced convergence resulting from backed winds in the moist air in response to lowered pressure in the warm air to the northwest. Aircraft measurements in the boundary layer and satellite-sensed surface temperature both indicate localized warming in this area to the northwest.

Farther north there was a 70–100-km segment along the dryline where few convective clouds formed during the afternoon. This coincided with a swath of cooler boundary layer air that resulted from reduced surface heating over an area that received significant thunderstorm rainfall during the previous night.

A severe thunderstorm complex that developed along the Kansas–Oklahoma border was initiated at the intersection of the dryline and a cloud line that extended into the dry air. An aircraft penetration of the cloud line about 12 km from its intersection with the dryline shows convergence and deepened low-level moisture at the cloud line. The cloud field that evolved into the cloud line over a period of several hours developed over the area that had received the heaviest rainfall during the previous night.

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