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Adam J. Clark

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Methods for generating ensemble mean precipitation forecasts from convection-allowing model (CAM) ensembles based on a simple average of all members at each grid point can have limited utility because of amplitude reduction and overprediction of light precipitation areas caused by averaging complex spatial fields with strong gradients and high-amplitude features. To combat these issues with the simple ensemble mean, a method known as probability matching is commonly used to replace the ensemble mean amounts with amounts sampled from the distribution of ensemble member forecasts, which results in a field that has a bias approximately equal to the average bias of the ensemble members. Thus, the probability matched mean (PM mean hereafter) is viewed as a better representation of the ensemble members compared to the mean, and previous studies find that it is more skillful than any of the individual members. Herein, using nearly a year’s worth of data from a CAM-based ensemble running in real time at the National Severe Storms Laboratory, evidence is provided that the superior performance of the PM mean is at least partially an artifact of the spatial redistribution of precipitation amounts that occur when the PM mean is computed over a large domain. Specifically, the PM mean enlarges big areas of heavy precipitation and shrinks or even eliminates smaller ones. An alternative approach for the PM mean is developed that restricts the grid points used to those within a specified radius of influence. The new approach has an improved spatial representation of precipitation and is found to perform more skillfully than the PM mean at large scales when using neighborhood-based verification metrics.

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Adam J. Clark

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This study compares ensemble precipitation forecasts from 10-member, 3-km grid-spacing, CONUS domain single- and multicore ensembles that were a part of the 2016 Community Leveraged Unified Ensemble (CLUE) that was run for the 2016 NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed Spring Forecasting Experiment. The main results are that a 10-member ARW ensemble was significantly more skillful than a 10-member NMMB ensemble, and a 10-member MIX ensemble (5 ARW and 5 NMMB members) performed about the same as the 10-member ARW ensemble. Skill was measured by area under the relative operating characteristic curve (AUC) and fractions skill score (FSS). Rank histograms in the ARW ensemble were flatter than the NMMB ensemble indicating that the envelope of ensemble members better encompassed observations (i.e., better reliability) in the ARW. Rank histograms in the MIX ensemble were similar to the ARW ensemble. In the context of NOAA’s plans for a Unified Forecast System featuring a CAM ensemble with a single core, the results are positive and indicate that it should be possible to develop a single-core system that performs as well as or better than the current operational CAM ensemble, which is known as the High-Resolution Ensemble Forecast System (HREF). However, as new modeling applications are developed and incremental changes that move HREF toward a single-core system are made possible, more thorough testing and evaluation should be conducted.

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Shih-Yu Wang and Adam J. Clark

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Using a composite procedure, North American Mesoscale Model (NAM) forecast and observed environments associated with zonally oriented, quasi-stationary surface fronts for 64 cases during July–August 2006–08 were examined for a large region encompassing the central United States. NAM adequately simulated the general synoptic features associated with the frontal environments (e.g., patterns in the low-level wind fields) as well as the positions of the fronts. However, kinematic fields important to frontogenesis such as horizontal deformation and convergence were overpredicted. Surface-based convective available potential energy (CAPE) and precipitable water were also overpredicted, which was likely related to the overprediction of the kinematic fields through convergence of water vapor flux. In addition, a spurious coherence between forecast deformation and precipitation was found using spatial correlation coefficients. Composite precipitation forecasts featured a broad area of rainfall stretched parallel to the composite front, whereas the composite observed precipitation covered a smaller area and had a WNW–ESE orientation relative to the front, consistent with mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) propagating at a slight right angle relative to the thermal gradient. Thus, deficiencies in the NAM precipitation forecasts may at least partially result from the inability to depict MCSs properly. It was observed that errors in the precipitation forecasts appeared to lag those of the kinematic fields, and so it seems likely that deficiencies in the precipitation forecasts are related to the overprediction of the kinematic fields such as deformation. However, no attempts were made to establish whether the overpredicted kinematic fields actually contributed to the errors in the precipitation forecasts or whether the overpredicted kinematic fields were simply an artifact of the precipitation errors. Regardless of the relationship between such errors, recognition of typical warm-season environments associated with these errors should be useful to operational forecasters.

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Russ S. Schumacher and Adam J. Clark

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This study investigates probabilistic forecasts made using different convection-allowing ensemble configurations for a three-day period in June 2010 when numerous heavy-rain-producing mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) occurred in the United States. These MCSs developed both along a baroclinic zone in the Great Plains, and in association with a long-lived mesoscale convective vortex (MCV) in Texas and Arkansas. Four different ensemble configurations were developed using an ensemble-based data assimilation system. Two configurations used continuously cycled data assimilation, and two started the assimilation 24 h prior to the initialization of each forecast. Each configuration was run with both a single set of physical parameterizations and a mixture of physical parameterizations. These four ensemble forecasts were also compared with an ensemble run in real time by the Center for the Analysis and Prediction of Storms (CAPS). All five of these ensemble systems produced skillful probabilistic forecasts of the heavy-rain-producing MCSs, with the ensembles using mixed physics providing forecasts with greater skill and less overall bias compared to the single-physics ensembles. The forecasts using ensemble-based assimilation systems generally outperformed the real-time CAPS ensemble at lead times of 6–18 h, whereas the CAPS ensemble was the most skillful at forecast hours 24–30, though it also exhibited a wet bias. The differences between the ensemble precipitation forecasts were found to be related in part to differences in the analysis of the MCV and its environment, which in turn affected the evolution of errors in the forecasts of the MCSs. These results underscore the importance of representing model error in convection-allowing ensemble analysis and prediction systems.

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Burkely T. Gallo, Adam J. Clark, and Scott R. Dembek
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Eric D. Loken, Adam J. Clark, and Christopher D. Karstens

Abstract

Extracting explicit severe weather forecast guidance from convection-allowing ensembles (CAEs) is challenging since CAEs cannot directly simulate individual severe weather hazards. Currently, CAE-based severe weather probabilities must be inferred from one or more storm-related variables, which may require extensive calibration and/or contain limited information. Machine learning (ML) offers a way to obtain severe weather forecast probabilities from CAEs by relating CAE forecast variables to observed severe weather reports. This paper develops and verifies a random forest (RF)-based ML method for creating day 1 (1200–1200 UTC) severe weather hazard probabilities and categorical outlooks based on 0000 UTC Storm-Scale Ensemble of Opportunity (SSEO) forecast data and observed Storm Prediction Center (SPC) storm reports. RF forecast probabilities are compared against severe weather forecasts from calibrated SSEO 2–5-km updraft helicity (UH) forecasts and SPC convective outlooks issued at 0600 UTC. Continuous RF probabilities routinely have the highest Brier skill scores (BSSs), regardless of whether the forecasts are evaluated over the full domain or regional/seasonal subsets. Even when RF probabilities are truncated at the probability levels issued by the SPC, the RF forecasts often have BSSs better than or comparable to corresponding UH and SPC forecasts. Relative to the UH and SPC forecasts, the RF approach performs best for severe wind and hail prediction during the spring and summer (i.e., March–August). Overall, it is concluded that the RF method presented here provides skillful, reliable CAE-derived severe weather probabilities that may be useful to severe weather forecasters and decision-makers.

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Burkely T. Gallo, Adam J. Clark, and Scott R. Dembek

Abstract

Hourly maximum fields of simulated storm diagnostics from experimental versions of convection-permitting models (CPMs) provide valuable information regarding severe weather potential. While past studies have focused on predicting any type of severe weather, this study uses a CPM-based Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model ensemble initialized daily at the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) to derive tornado probabilities using a combination of simulated storm diagnostics and environmental parameters. Daily probabilistic tornado forecasts are developed from the NSSL-WRF ensemble using updraft helicity (UH) as a tornado proxy. The UH fields are combined with simulated environmental fields such as lifted condensation level (LCL) height, most unstable and surface-based CAPE (MUCAPE and SBCAPE, respectively), and multifield severe weather parameters such as the significant tornado parameter (STP). Varying thresholds of 2–5-km updraft helicity were tested with differing values of σ in the Gaussian smoother that was used to derive forecast probabilities, as well as different environmental information, with the aim of maximizing both forecast skill and reliability. The addition of environmental information improved the reliability and the critical success index (CSI) while slightly degrading the area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve across all UH thresholds and σ values. The probabilities accurately reflected the location of tornado reports, and three case studies demonstrate value to forecasters. Based on initial tests, four sets of tornado probabilities were chosen for evaluation by participants in the 2015 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hazardous Weather Testbed Spring Forecasting Experiment from 4 May to 5 June 2015. Participants found the probabilities useful and noted an overforecasting tendency.

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Adam J. Clark, William A. Gallus Jr., and Tsing-Chang Chen

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An experiment is described that is designed to examine the contributions of model, initial condition (IC), and lateral boundary condition (LBC) errors to the spread and skill of precipitation forecasts from two regional eight-member 15-km grid-spacing Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) ensembles covering a 1575 km × 1800 km domain. It is widely recognized that a skillful ensemble [i.e., an ensemble with a probability distribution function (PDF) that generates forecast probabilities with high resolution and reliability] should account for both error sources. Previous work suggests that model errors make a larger contribution than IC and LBC errors to forecast uncertainty in the short range before synoptic-scale error growth becomes nonlinear. However, in a regional model with unperturbed LBCs, the infiltration of the lateral boundaries will negate increasing spread. To obtain a better understanding of the contributions to the forecast errors in precipitation and to examine the window of forecast lead time before unperturbed ICs and LBCs begin to cause degradation in ensemble forecast skill, the “perfect model” assumption is made in an ensemble that uses perturbed ICs and LBCs (PILB ensemble), and the “perfect analysis” assumption is made in another ensemble that uses mixed physics–dynamic cores (MP ensemble), thus isolating the error contributions. For the domain and time period used in this study, unperturbed ICs and LBCs in the MP ensemble begin to negate increasing spread around forecast hour 24, and ensemble forecast skill as measured by relative operating characteristic curves (ROC scores) becomes lower in the MP ensemble than in the PILB ensemble, with statistical significance beginning after forecast hour 69. However, degradation in forecast skill in the MP ensemble relative to the PILB ensemble is not observed in an analysis of deterministic forecasts calculated from each ensemble using the probability matching method. Both ensembles were found to lack statistical consistency (i.e., to be underdispersive), with the PILB ensemble (MP ensemble) exhibiting more (less) statistical consistency with respect to forecast lead time. Spread ratios in the PILB ensemble are greater than those in the MP ensemble at all forecast lead times and thresholds examined; however, ensemble variance in the MP ensemble is greater than that in the PILB ensemble during the first 24 h of the forecast. This discrepancy in spread measures likely results from greater bias in the MP ensemble leading to an increase in ensemble variance and decrease in spread ratio relative to the PILB ensemble.

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Nusrat Yussouf, John S. Kain, and Adam J. Clark

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A continuous-update-cycle storm-scale ensemble data assimilation (DA) and prediction system using the ARW model and DART software is used to generate retrospective 0–6-h ensemble forecasts of the 31 May 2013 tornado and flash flood event over central Oklahoma, with a focus on the prediction of heavy rainfall. Results indicate that the model-predicted probabilities of strong low-level mesocyclones correspond well with the locations of observed mesocyclones and with the observed damage track. The ensemble-mean quantitative precipitation forecast (QPF) from the radar DA experiments match NCEP’s stage IV analyses reasonably well in terms of location and amount of rainfall, particularly during the 0–3-h forecast period. In contrast, significant displacement errors and lower rainfall totals are evident in a control experiment that withholds radar data during the DA. The ensemble-derived probabilistic QPF (PQPF) from the radar DA experiment is more skillful than the PQPF from the no_radar experiment, based on visual inspection and probabilistic verification metrics. A novel object-based storm-tracking algorithm provides additional insight, suggesting that explicit assimilation and 1–2-h prediction of the dominant supercell is remarkably skillful in the radar experiment. The skill in both experiments is substantially higher during the 0–3-h forecast period than in the 3–6-h period. Furthermore, the difference in skill between the two forecasts decreases sharply during the latter period, indicating that the impact of radar DA is greatest during early forecast hours. Overall, the results demonstrate the potential for a frequently updated, high-resolution ensemble system to extend probabilistic low-level mesocyclone and flash flood forecast lead times and improve accuracy of convective precipitation nowcasting.

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Russ S. Schumacher, Adam J. Clark, Ming Xue, and Fanyou Kong

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From 9 to 11 June 2010, a mesoscale convective vortex (MCV) was associated with several periods of heavy rainfall that led to flash flooding. During the overnight hours, mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) developed that moved slowly and produced heavy rainfall over small areas in south-central Texas on 9 June, north Texas on 10 June, and western Arkansas on 11 June. In this study, forecasts of this event from the Center for the Analysis and Prediction of Storms' Storm-Scale Ensemble Forecast system are examined. This ensemble, with 26 members at 4-km horizontal grid spacing, included a few members that very accurately predicted the development, maintenance, and evolution of the heavy-rain-producing MCSs, along with a majority of members that had substantial errors in their precipitation forecasts. The processes favorable for the initiation, organization, and maintenance of these heavy-rain-producing MCSs are diagnosed by comparing ensemble members with accurate and inaccurate forecasts. Even within a synoptic environment known to be conducive to extreme local rainfall, there was considerable spread in the ensemble's rainfall predictions. Because all ensemble members included an anomalously moist environment, the precipitation predictions were insensitive to the atmospheric moisture. However, the development of heavy precipitation overnight was very sensitive to the intensity and evolution of convection the previous day. Convective influences on the strength of the MCV and its associated dome of cold air at low levels determined whether subsequent deep convection was initiated and maintained. In all, this ensemble provides quantitative and qualitative information about the mesoscale processes that are most favorable (or unfavorable) for localized extreme rainfall.

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