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Hailing Zhang and Zhaoxia Pu

Abstract

A series of numerical experiments are conducted to examine the impact of surface observations on the prediction of landfalls of Hurricane Katrina (2005), one of the deadliest disasters in U.S. history. A specific initial time (0000 UTC 25 August 2005), which led to poor prediction of Hurricane Katrina in several previous studies, is selected to begin data assimilation experiments. Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT) ocean surface wind vectors and surface mesonet observations are assimilated with the minimum central sea level pressure and conventional observations from NCEP into an Advanced Research version of the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) using an ensemble Kalman filter method. Impacts of data assimilation on the analyses and forecasts of Katrina’s track, landfalling time and location, intensity, structure, and rainfall are evaluated. It is found that the assimilation of QuikSCAT and mesonet surface observations can improve prediction of the hurricane track and structure through modifying low-level thermal and dynamical fields such as wind, humidity, and temperature and enhancing low-level convergence and vorticity. However, assimilation of single-level surface observations alone does not ensure reasonable intensity forecasts because of the lack of constraint on the mid- to upper troposphere. When surface observations are assimilated with other conventional data, obvious enhancements are found in the forecasts of track and intensity, realistic convection, and surface wind structures. More importantly, surface data assimilation results in significant improvements in quantitative precipitation forecasts (QPFs) during landfalls.

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Hailing Zhang, Zhaoxia Pu, and Xuebo Zhang

Abstract

The performance of an advanced research version of the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) in predicting near-surface atmospheric temperature and wind conditions under various terrain and weather regimes is examined. Verification of 2-m temperature and 10-m wind speed and direction against surface Mesonet observations is conducted. Three individual events under strong synoptic forcings (i.e., a frontal system, a low-level jet, and a persistent inversion) are first evaluated. It is found that the WRF model is able to reproduce these weather phenomena reasonably well. Forecasts of near-surface variables in flat terrain generally agree well with observations, but errors also occur, depending on the predictability of the lower-atmospheric boundary layer. In complex terrain, forecasts not only suffer from the model's inability to reproduce accurate atmospheric conditions in the lower atmosphere but also struggle with representative issues due to mismatches between the model and the actual terrain. In addition, surface forecasts at finer resolutions do not always outperform those at coarser resolutions. Increasing the vertical resolution may not help predict the near-surface variables, although it does improve the forecasts of the structure of mesoscale weather phenomena. A statistical analysis is also performed for 120 forecasts during a 1-month period to further investigate forecast error characteristics in complex terrain. Results illustrate that forecast errors in near-surface variables depend strongly on the diurnal variation in surface conditions, especially when synoptic forcing is weak. Under strong synoptic forcing, the diurnal patterns in the errors break down, while the flow-dependent errors are clearly shown.

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