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Katherine E. Lukens and Ernesto Hugo Berbery

Abstract

This article examines to what extent the NCEP Climate Forecast System (CFS) weeks 3–4 reforecasts reproduce the CFS Reanalysis (CFSR) storm-track properties, and if so, whether the storm-track behavior can contribute to the prediction of related winter weather in North America. The storm tracks are described by objectively tracking isentropic potential vorticity (PV) anomalies for two periods (base, 1983–2002; validation, 2003–10) to assess their value in a more realistic forecast mode. Statistically significant positive PV biases are found in the storm-track reforecasts. Removal of systematic errors is found to improve general storm-track features. CFSR and Reforecast (CFSRR) reproduces well the observed intensity and spatial distributions of storm-track-related near-surface winds, with small yet significant biases found in the storm-track regions. Removal of the mean wind bias further reduces the error on average by 12%. The spatial distributions of the reforecast precipitation correspond well with the reanalysis, although significant positive biases are found across the contiguous United States. Removal of the precipitation bias reduces the error on average by 25%. The bias-corrected fields better depict the observed variability and exhibit additional improvements in the representation of winter weather associated with strong-storm tracks (the storms with more intense PV). Additionally, the reforecasts reproduce the characteristic intensity and frequency of hazardous strong-storm winds. The findings suggest a potential use of storm-track statistics in the advancement of subseasonal-to-seasonal weather prediction in North America.

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Katherine E. Lukens, Ernesto Hugo Berbery, and Kevin I. Hodges

Abstract

Northern Hemisphere winter storm tracks and their relation to winter weather are investigated using NCEP CFSR data. Storm tracks are described by isentropic PV maxima within a Lagrangian framework; these correspond well with those described in previous studies. The current diagnostics focus on strong-storm tracks, which comprise storms that achieve a maximum PV exceeding the mean value by one standard deviation. Large increases in diabatic heating related to deep convection occur where the storm tracks are most intense. The cyclogenesis pattern shows that strong storms generally develop on the upstream sectors of the tracks. Intensification happens toward the eastern North Pacific and all across the North Atlantic Ocean, where enhanced storm-track-related weather is found. In this study, the relation of storm tracks to near-surface winds and precipitation is evaluated. The largest increases in storm-track-related winds are found where strong storms tend to develop and intensify, while storm precipitation is enhanced in areas where the storm tracks have their highest intensity. Strong storms represent about 16% of all storms but contribute 30%–50% of the storm precipitation in the storm-track regions. Both strong-storm-related winds and precipitation are prone to cause storm-related losses in the eastern U.S. and North American coasts. Over the oceans, maritime operations are expected to be most vulnerable to damage offshore of the U.S. coasts. Despite making up a small fraction of all storms, the strong-storm tracks have a significant imprint on winter weather in North America potentially leading to structural and economic loss.

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