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Chanh Kieu, Cole Evans, Yi Jin, James D. Doyle, Hao Jin, and Jonathan Moskaitis

Abstract

This study examines the dependence of tropical cyclone (TC) intensity forecast errors on track forecast errors in the Coupled Ocean/Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction System for Tropical Cyclones (COAMPS-TC) model. Using real-time forecasts and retrospective experiments during 2015-2018, verification of TC intensity errors conditioned on different 5-day track error thresholds shows that reducing the 5-day track errors by 50-70% can help reduce the absolute intensity errors by 18-20% in the 2018 version of the COAMPS-TC model. Such impacts of track errors on the TC intensity errors are most persistent at 4-5 day lead times in all three major ocean basins, indicating a significant control of global models on the forecast skill of the COAMPS-TC model. It is of interest to find, however, that lowering the 5-day track errors below 80 nm does not reduce TC absolute intensity errors further. Instead, the 4-5 day intensity errors appear to be saturated at around 10-12 kt for cases with small track errors, thus suggesting the existence of some inherent intensity errors in regional models.

Additional idealized simulations under a perfect model scenario reveal that the COAMPS-TC model possesses an intrinsic intensity variation at the TC mature stage in the range of 4-5 kt, regardless of the large-scale environment. Such intrinsic intensity variability in the COAMPS-TC model highlights the importance of potential chaotic TC dynamics, rather than model deficiencies, in determining TC intensity errors at 4-5 day lead times. These results indicate a fundamental limit in the improvement of TC intensity forecasts by numerical models that one should consider in future model development and evaluation.

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