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Jeremiah O. Piersante, Russ. S. Schumacher, and Kristen L. Rasmussen

Abstract

Ensemble forecasts using the WRF Model at 20-km grid spacing with varying parameterizations are used to investigate and compare precipitation and atmospheric profile forecast biases in North and South America. By verifying a 19-member ensemble against NCEP Stage-IV precipitation analyses, it is shown that the cumulus parameterization (CP), in addition to precipitation amount and season, had the largest influence on precipitation forecast skill in North America during 2016–17. Verification of an ensemble subset against operational radiosondes in North and South America finds that forecasts in both continents feature a substantial midlevel dry bias, particularly at 700 hPa, during the warm season. Case-by-case analysis suggests that large midlevel error is associated with mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) east of the high terrain and westerly subsident flow from the Rocky and Andes Mountains in North and South America. However, error in South America is consistently greater than North America. This is likely attributed to the complex terrain and higher average altitude of the Andes relative to the Rockies, which allow for a deeper low-level jet and long-lasting MCSs, both of which 20-km simulations struggle to resolve. In the wake of data availability from the RELAMPAGO field campaign, the authors hope that this work motivates further comparison of large precipitating systems in North and South America, given their high impact in both continents.

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Jeremiah O. Piersante, Kristen L. Rasmussen, Russ S. Schumacher, Angela K. Rowe, and Lynn A. McMurdie

Abstract

Subtropical South America (SSA) east of the Andes Mountains is a global hotspot for mesoscale convective systems (MCSs). Wide convective cores (WCCs) are typically embedded within mature MCSs, contribute over 40% of SSA’s warm-season rainfall, and are often associated with severe weather. Prior analysis of Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Precipitation Radar (PR) data identified WCCs in SSA and associated synoptic conditions during austral summer. As WCCs also occur during the austral spring, this study uses the 16-yr TRMM PR and ERA5 datasets to compare anomalies in environmental conditions between austral spring (SON) and summer (DJF) for the largest and smallest WCCs in SSA. During both seasons, large WCCs are associated with an anomalous midlevel trough that slowly crosses the Andes Mountains and a northerly South American low-level jet (SALLJ) over SSA, though the SON trough and SALLJ anomalies are stronger and located farther northeastward than in DJF. A synoptic pattern evolution resembling large WCC environments is illustrated through a multiday case during the RELAMPAGO field campaign (10–13 November 2018). Unique high-temporal-resolution soundings showed strong midlevel vertical wind shear associated with this event, induced by the juxtaposition of the northerly SALLJ and southerly near-surface flow. It is hypothesized that the Andes help create a quasi-stationary trough–ridge pattern such that favorable synoptic conditions for deep convection persist for multiple days. For the smallest WCCs, anomalously weaker synoptic-scale forcing was present compared to the largest events, especially for DJF, pointing to future work exploring MCS formation under weaker synoptic conditions.

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