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David B. Mechem, Carly S. Wittman, Matthew A. Miller, Sandra E. Yuter, and Simon P. de Szoeke

Abstract

Marine boundary layer clouds are modified by processes at different spatial and temporal scales. To isolate the processes governing aerosol–cloud–precipitation interactions, multiday synoptic variability of the environment must be accounted for. Information on the location of low clouds relative to the ridge–trough pattern gives insight into how cloud properties vary as a function of environmental subsidence and stability. The technique of self-organizing maps (SOMs) is employed to objectively classify the 500-hPa geopotential height patterns for 33 years of reanalysis fields (ERA-Interim) into pretrough, trough, posttrough, ridge, and zonal-flow categories. The SOM technique is applied to a region of prevalent marine low cloudiness over the eastern North Atlantic Ocean that is centered on the Azores island chain, the location of a long-term U.S. Department of Energy observation site. The Azores consistently lie in an area of substantial variability in synoptic configuration, thermodynamic environment, and cloud properties. The SOM method was run in two ways to emphasize multiday and seasonal variability separately. Over and near the Azores, there is an east-to-west sloshing back and forth of the western edge of marine low clouds associated with different synoptic states. The different synoptic states also exhibit substantial north–south variability in the position of high clouds. For any given month of the year, there is large year-to-year variability in the occurrence of different synoptic states. Hence, estimating the climatological behavior of clouds from short-term field campaigns has large uncertainties. This SOM approach is a robust method that is broadly applicable to characterizing synoptic regimes for any location.

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Matthew D. Parker, Brett S. Borchardt, Rachel L. Miller, and Conrad L. Ziegler

Abstract

The 25–26 June 2015 nocturnal mesoscale convective system (MCS) from the Plains Elevated Convection at Night (PECAN) field project produced severe winds within an environment that might customarily be associated with elevated convection. This work incorporates both a full-physics real-world simulation and an idealized single-sounding simulation to explore the MCS’s evolution. Initially, the simulated convective systems were elevated, being maintained by wavelike disturbances and lacking surface cold pools. As the systems matured, surface outflows began to appear, particularly where heavy precipitation was occurring, with air in the surface cold pools originating from up to 4–5 km AGL. Via this progression, the MCSs exhibited a degree of self-organization (i.e., structures that are dependent upon an MCS’s particular history). The cold pools eventually became 1.5–3.5 km deep, by which point passive tracers revealed that the convection was at least partly surface based. Soon after becoming surface based, both simulations produced severe surface winds, the strongest of which were associated with embedded low-level mesovortices and their attendant outflow surges and bowing segments. The origin of the simulated mesovortices was likely the downward tilting of system-generated horizontal vorticity (from baroclinity, but also possibly friction) within the simulated MCSs’ outflow, as has been argued in a number of previous studies. Taken altogether, it appears that severe nocturnal MCSs may often resemble their cold pool-driven, surface-based afternoon counterparts.

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Jared A. Lee, Sue Ellen Haupt, Pedro A. Jiménez, Matthew A. Rogers, Steven D. Miller, and Tyler C. McCandless

Abstract

The Sun4Cast solar power forecasting system, designed to predict solar irradiance and power generation at solar farms, is composed of several component models operating on both the nowcasting (0–6 h) and day-ahead forecast horizons. The different nowcasting models include a statistical forecasting model (StatCast), two satellite-based forecasting models [the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere Nowcast (CIRACast) and the Multisensor Advection-Diffusion Nowcast (MADCast)], and a numerical weather prediction model (WRF-Solar). It is important to better understand and assess the strengths and weaknesses of these short-range models to facilitate further improvements. To that end, each of these models, including four WRF-Solar configurations, was evaluated for four case days in April 2014. For each model, the 15-min average predicted global horizontal irradiance (GHI) was compared with GHI observations from a network of seven pyranometers operated by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) in California. Each case day represents a canonical sky-cover regime for the SMUD region and thus represents different modeling challenges. The analysis found that each of the nowcasting models perform better or worse for particular lead times and weather situations. StatCast performs best in clear skies and for 0–1-h forecasts; CIRACast and MADCast perform reasonably well when cloud fields are not rapidly growing or dissipating; and WRF-Solar, when configured with a high-spatial-resolution aerosol climatology and a shallow cumulus parameterization, generally performs well in all situations. Further research is needed to develop an optimal dynamic blending technique that provides a single best forecast to energy utility operators.

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Anson H. Cheung, Michael E. Mann, Byron A. Steinman, Leela M. Frankcombe, Matthew H. England, and Sonya K. Miller

Abstract

In a comment on a 2017 paper by Cheung et al., Kravtsov states that the results of Cheung et al. are invalidated by errors in the method used to estimate internal variability in historical surface temperatures, which involves using the ensemble mean of simulations from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) to estimate the forced signal. Kravtsov claims that differences between the forced signals in the individual models and as defined by the multimodel ensemble mean lead to errors in the assessment of internal variability in both model simulations and the instrumental record. Kravtsov proposes a different method, which instead uses CMIP5 models with at least four realizations to define the forced component. Here, it is shown that the conclusions of Cheung et al. are valid regardless of whether the method of Cheung et al. or that of Kravtsov is applied. Furthermore, many of the points raised by Kravtsov are discussed in Cheung et al., and the disagreements of Kravtsov appear to be mainly due to a misunderstanding of the aims of Cheung et al.

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Anson H. Cheung, Michael E. Mann, Byron A. Steinman, Leela M. Frankcombe, Matthew H. England, and Sonya K. Miller

Abstract

Low-frequency internal climate variability (ICV) plays an important role in modulating global surface temperature, regional climate, and climate extremes. However, it has not been completely characterized in the instrumental record and in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) model ensemble. In this study, the surface temperature ICV of the North Pacific (NP), North Atlantic (NA), and Northern Hemisphere (NH) in the instrumental record and historical CMIP5 all-forcing simulations is isolated using a semiempirical method wherein the CMIP5 ensemble mean is applied as the external forcing signal and removed from each time series. Comparison of ICV signals derived from this semiempirical method as well as from analysis of ICV in CMIP5 preindustrial control runs reveals disagreement in the spatial pattern and amplitude between models and instrumental data on multidecadal time scales (>20 yr). Analysis of the amplitude of total variability and the ICV in the models and instrumental data indicates that the models underestimate ICV amplitude on low-frequency time scales (>20 yr in the NA; >40 yr in the NP), while agreement is found in the NH variability. A multiple linear regression analysis of ICV in the instrumental record shows that variability in the NP drives decadal-to-interdecadal variability in the NH, whereas the NA drives multidecadal variability in the NH. Analysis of the CMIP5 historical simulations does not reveal such a relationship, indicating model limitations in simulating ICV. These findings demonstrate the need to better characterize low-frequency ICV, which may help improve attribution and decadal prediction.

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Matt C. Wilbanks, Sandra E. Yuter, Simon P. de Szoeke, W. Alan Brewer, Matthew A. Miller, Andrew M. Hall, and Casey D. Burleyson

Abstract

Density currents (i.e., cold pools or outflows) beneath marine stratocumulus clouds are characterized using 30 days of ship-based observations obtained during the 2008 Variability of American Monsoon Systems (VAMOS) Ocean–Cloud–Atmosphere–Land Study Regional Experiment (VOCALS-REx) in the southeast Pacific. An air density increase criterion applied to the Improved Meteorological (IMET) sensor data identified 71 density current front, core (peak density), and tail (dissipating) zones. The similarity in speeds of the mean density current propagation speed (1.8 m s−1) and the mean cloud-level advection relative to the surface layer wind (1.9 m s−1) allowed drizzle cells to deposit elongated density currents in their wakes. Scanning Doppler lidar captured prefrontal updrafts with a mean intensity of 0.91 m s−1 and an average vertical extent of 800 m. Updrafts were often surmounted by low-lying shelf clouds not connected to the overlying stratocumulus cloud. The observed density currents were 5–10 times thinner and weaker than typical continental thunderstorm cold pools. Nearly 90% of density currents were identified when C-band radar estimated areal average rain rates exceeded 1 mm day−1 over a 30-km diameter. Rather than peaking when rain rates were highest overnight, density current occurrence peaks between 0600 and 0800 local solar time when enhanced local drizzle co-occurred with shallow subcloud dry and stable layers. The dry layers may have contributed to density current formation by enhancing subcloud evaporation of drizzle. Density currents preferentially occurred in a large region of predominantly open cells but also occurred in regions of closed cells.

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Yoo-Jeong Noh, John M. Forsythe, Steven D. Miller, Curtis J. Seaman, Yue Li, Andrew K. Heidinger, Daniel T. Lindsey, Matthew A. Rogers, and Philip T. Partain

Abstract

Knowledge of cloud-base height (CBH) is important to describe cloud radiative feedbacks in numerical models and is of practical relevance to the aviation community. Whereas satellite remote sensing with passive radiometers traditionally has provided a ready means for estimating cloud-top height (CTH) and cloud water path (CWP), assignment of CBH requires heavy assumptions on the distribution of CWP within the cloud profile. An attempt to retrieve CBH has been included as part of the VIIRS environmental data records, produced operationally as part of the Suomi–National Polar-Orbiting Partnership (SNPP) and the forthcoming Joint Polar Satellite System. Through formal validation studies tied to the program, it was found that the operational CBH algorithm failed to meet performance specifications in many cases. This paper presents a new methodology for retrieving CBH of the uppermost cloud layer, developed through statistical analyses relating cloud geometric thickness (CGT) to CTH and CWP. The semiempirical approach, which relates these parameters via piecewise fitting, enlists A-Train satellite data [CloudSat cloud profiling radar (CPR), CALIPSO/CALIOP, and Aqua MODIS]. CBH is provided as the residual difference between CTH and CGT. By eliminating cloud type–dependent assumptions on CWP distribution, artifacts common to the operational algorithm (which contribute to high errors) are reduced. Special accommodations are made for handling optically thin cirrus and deep convection. An application to SNPP VIIRS is demonstrated, and the results are compared against global CloudSat observations. From the VIIRS–CloudSat daytime matchups (September–October 2013 and January–May 2015), the new algorithm outperforms the operational SNPP VIIRS algorithm, particularly when the retrieved CTH is accurate. Best performance is expected for single-layer liquid-phase clouds.

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Matthew Newman, Michael A. Alexander, Toby R. Ault, Kim M. Cobb, Clara Deser, Emanuele Di Lorenzo, Nathan J. Mantua, Arthur J. Miller, Shoshiro Minobe, Hisashi Nakamura, Niklas Schneider, Daniel J. Vimont, Adam S. Phillips, James D. Scott, and Catherine A. Smith

Abstract

The Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO), the dominant year-round pattern of monthly North Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) variability, is an important target of ongoing research within the meteorological and climate dynamics communities and is central to the work of many geologists, ecologists, natural resource managers, and social scientists. Research over the last 15 years has led to an emerging consensus: the PDO is not a single phenomenon, but is instead the result of a combination of different physical processes, including both remote tropical forcing and local North Pacific atmosphere–ocean interactions, which operate on different time scales to drive similar PDO-like SST anomaly patterns. How these processes combine to generate the observed PDO evolution, including apparent regime shifts, is shown using simple autoregressive models of increasing spatial complexity. Simulations of recent climate in coupled GCMs are able to capture many aspects of the PDO, but do so based on a balance of processes often more independent of the tropics than is observed. Finally, it is suggested that the assessment of PDO-related regional climate impacts, reconstruction of PDO-related variability into the past with proxy records, and diagnosis of Pacific variability within coupled GCMs should all account for the effects of these different processes, which only partly represent the direct forcing of the atmosphere by North Pacific Ocean SSTs.

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Sue Ellen Haupt, Branko Kosović, Tara Jensen, Jeffrey K. Lazo, Jared A. Lee, Pedro A. Jiménez, James Cowie, Gerry Wiener, Tyler C. McCandless, Matthew Rogers, Steven Miller, Manajit Sengupta, Yu Xie, Laura Hinkelman, Paul Kalb, and John Heiser

Abstract

As integration of solar power into the national electric grid rapidly increases, it becomes imperative to improve forecasting of this highly variable renewable resource. Thus, a team of researchers from the public, private, and academic sectors partnered to develop and assess a new solar power forecasting system, Sun4Cast. The partnership focused on improving decision-making for utilities and independent system operators, ultimately resulting in improved grid stability and cost savings for consumers. The project followed a value chain approach to determine key research and technology needs to reach desired results.

Sun4Cast integrates various forecasting technologies across a spectrum of temporal and spatial scales to predict surface solar irradiance. Anchoring the system is WRF-Solar, a version of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) numerical weather prediction (NWP) model optimized for solar irradiance prediction. Forecasts from multiple NWP models are blended via the Dynamic Integrated Forecast (DICast) System, which forms the basis of the system beyond about 6 h. For short-range (0–6 h) forecasts, Sun4Cast leverages several observation-based nowcasting technologies. These technologies are blended via the Nowcasting Expert System Integrator (NESI). The NESI and DICast systems are subsequently blended to produce short- to midterm irradiance forecasts for solar array locations. The irradiance forecasts are translated into power with uncertainties quantified using an analog ensemble approach and are provided to the industry partners for real-time decision-making. The Sun4Cast system ran operationally throughout 2015 and results were assessed.

This paper analyzes the collaborative design process, discusses the project results, and provides recommendations for best-practice solar forecasting.

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Robert Wood, Matthew Wyant, Christopher S. Bretherton, Jasmine Rémillard, Pavlos Kollias, Jennifer Fletcher, Jayson Stemmler, Simone de Szoeke, Sandra Yuter, Matthew Miller, David Mechem, George Tselioudis, J. Christine Chiu, Julian A. L. Mann, Ewan J. O’Connor, Robin J. Hogan, Xiquan Dong, Mark Miller, Virendra Ghate, Anne Jefferson, Qilong Min, Patrick Minnis, Rabindra Palikonda, Bruce Albrecht, Ed Luke, Cecile Hannay, and Yanluan Lin

Abstract

The Clouds, Aerosol, and Precipitation in the Marine Boundary Layer (CAP-MBL) deployment at Graciosa Island in the Azores generated a 21-month (April 2009–December 2010) comprehensive dataset documenting clouds, aerosols, and precipitation using the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program (ARM) Mobile Facility (AMF). The scientific aim of the deployment is to gain improved understanding of the interactions of clouds, aerosols, and precipitation in the marine boundary layer.

Graciosa Island straddles the boundary between the subtropics and midlatitudes in the northeast Atlantic Ocean and consequently experiences a great diversity of meteorological and cloudiness conditions. Low clouds are the dominant cloud type, with stratocumulus and cumulus occurring regularly. Approximately half of all clouds contained precipitation detectable as radar echoes below the cloud base. Radar and satellite observations show that clouds with tops from 1 to 11 km contribute more or less equally to surface-measured precipitation at Graciosa. A wide range of aerosol conditions was sampled during the deployment consistent with the diversity of sources as indicated by back-trajectory analysis. Preliminary findings suggest important two-way interactions between aerosols and clouds at Graciosa, with aerosols affecting light precipitation and cloud radiative properties while being controlled in part by precipitation scavenging.

The data from Graciosa are being compared with short-range forecasts made with a variety of models. A pilot analysis with two climate and two weather forecast models shows that they reproduce the observed time-varying vertical structure of lower-tropospheric cloud fairly well but the cloud-nucleating aerosol concentrations less well. The Graciosa site has been chosen to be a permanent fixed ARM site that became operational in October 2013.

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