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Maike Ahlgrimm
and
Richard Forbes

Abstract

In this study, the representation of marine boundary layer clouds is investigated in the ECMWF model using observations from the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) mobile facility deployment to Graciosa Island in the North Atlantic. Systematic errors in the occurrence of clouds, liquid water path, precipitation, and surface radiation are assessed in the operational model for a 19-month-long period. Boundary layer clouds were the most frequently observed cloud type but were underestimated by 10% in the model. Systematic but partially compensating surface radiation errors exist and can be linked to opposing cloud cover and liquid water path errors in broken (shallow cumulus) and overcast (stratocumulus) low-cloud regimes, consistent with previously reported results from the continental ARM Southern Great Plains (SGP) site. Occurrence of precipitation is overestimated by a factor of 1.5 at cloud base and by a factor of 2 at the surface, suggesting deficiencies in both the warm-rain formation and subcloud evaporation parameterizations. A single-column version of the ECMWF model is used to test combined changes to the parameterizations of boundary layer, autoconversion/accretion, and rain evaporation processes at Graciosa. Low-cloud occurrence, liquid water path, radiation biases, and precipitation occurrence are all significantly improved when compared to the ARM observations. Initial results from the modified parameterizations in the full model show improvement in the global top-of-the-atmosphere shortwave radiation, suggesting the reduced errors in the comparison at Graciosa are more widely applicable to boundary layer cloud around the globe.

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Maike Ahlgrimm
and
Richard Forbes

Abstract

The long-term measurement records from the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement site on the Southern Great Plains show evidence of a bias in the ECMWF model’s surface irradiance. Based on previous studies, which have suggested that summertime shallow clouds may contribute to the bias, an evaluation of 146 days with observed nonprecipitating fair-weather cumulus clouds is performed. In-cloud liquid water path and effective radius are both overestimated in the model with liquid water path dominating to produce clouds that are too reflective. These are compensated by occasional cloud-free days in the model such that the fair-weather cumulus regime overall does not contribute significantly to the multiyear daytime mean surface irradiance bias of 23 W m−2. To further explore the origin of the bias, observed and modeled cloud fraction profiles over 6 years are classified and sorted based on the surface irradiance bias associated with each sample pair. Overcast low cloud conditions during the spring and fall seasons are identified as a major contributor. For samples with low cloud present in both observations and model, opposing surface irradiance biases are found for overcast and broken cloud cover conditions. A reduction of cloud liquid to a third for broken low clouds and an increase by a factor of 1.5 in overcast situations improves agreement with the observed liquid water path distribution. This approach of combining the model shortwave bias with a cloud classification helps to identify compensating errors in the model, providing guidance for a targeted improvement of cloud parameterizations.

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Richard M. Forbes
and
Maike Ahlgrimm

Abstract

Supercooled liquid water (SLW) layers in boundary layer clouds are abundantly observed in the atmosphere at high latitudes, but remain a challenge to represent in numerical weather prediction (NWP) and climate models. Unresolved processes such as small-scale turbulence and mixed-phase microphysics act to maintain the liquid layer at cloud top, directly affecting cloud radiative properties and prolonging cloud lifetimes. This paper describes the representation of supercooled liquid water in boundary layer clouds in the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) global NWP model and in particular the change from a diagnostic temperature-dependent mixed phase to a prognostic representation with separate cloud liquid and ice variables. Data from the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement site in Alaska and from the CloudSat/Cloud–Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) satellite missions are used to evaluate the model parameterizations. The prognostic scheme shows a more realistic cloud structure, with an SLW layer at cloud top and ice falling out below. However, because of the limited vertical and horizontal resolution and uncertainties in the parameterization of physical processes near cloud top, the change leads to an overall reduction in SLW water with a detrimental impact on shortwave and longwave radiative fluxes, and increased 2-m temperature errors over land. A reduction in the ice deposition rate at cloud top significantly improves the SLW occurrence and radiative impacts, and highlights the need for improved understanding and parameterization of physical processes for mixed-phase cloud in large-scale models.

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Gregory S. Forbes
,
Dennis W. Thomson
, and
Richard A. Anthes

Abstract

An interesting ice storm of moderate severity occurred along the east slopes of the Appalachians on 13–14 January 1980. Though surface temperatures were initially below freezing in most of this region, objective guidance indicated that large-scale warm would render the atmosphere conducive to rain. Warm advection did occur above about 900 mb, but below this level warm advection was prevented by a cold ~ shaped ridge of high pressure which became entrenched along the east slopes. Temperature in the lowest 0.5–1 km remained below freezing and an ice storm resulted.

This case study documents the evolution of the wedge ridge and the temperature and wind fields associated with it. Comparisons are made between the evolution of these fields within the quasi-stationary wedge ridge (a weather regime known as cold-air damming and their evolution during the preceding period, when the pressure ridge was progressing eastward across the Midwest The processes controlling the charges of temperature in these regimes are analyzed; cold advection and upslope flow maintain the cold dome. Cross sections are used to present detailed analyses of the vertical structure and evolution of the temperatures and winds within the damming region. Interesting features include the development of an “extended coastal front”—the sloping inversion separating the trapped cold dome from the warm onshore flow above, a jet parallel to the mountain at low levels, and an enhanced flow over the mountain near its crest. Apparently due to the lack of vertical resolution sufficient to capture such features operational numerical models exhibited substantial errors in this case.

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Robert E. Hart
,
Gregory S. Forbes
, and
Richard H. Grumm

Abstract

Since late 1995, NCEP has made available to forecasters hourly model guidance at selected sites in the form of vertical profiles of various forecast fields. These profiles provide forecasters with increased temporal resolution and greater vertical resolution than had been previously available. The hourly forecast profiles are provided for all of NCEP’s short-range models: the Nested Grid Model, Eta Model, and Mesoscale Eta Model. The high-resolution forecasts aid in the timing of frontal passages, low-level jets, and convective initiation. In addition, through time–height cross sections of Richardson numbers, forecasters can alert pilots to the potential for clear air turbulence several hours to a day in advance. Further, the profiles are useful in prediction of cloudiness and the dissipation of low-level stratus and fog. Time–height cross sections of wind velocity have proven extraordinarily useful in visualizing and forecasting inversion heights, frontal passage timing, boundary layer depth, and available environmental and storm-relative helicity during convective events.

The hourly model forecasts were found to be exceptionally helpful when combined with hourly surface observations to produce enhanced real-time analyses of convective parameters for use in very short term forecasting. High-resolution analyses of lifted index, CAPE, convective inhibition, moisture flux convergence, and 2-h changes in these fields aid the forecaster in anticipating convective trends. The introduction of model forecast error into these real-time analyses was minimized by using the latest available Eta or Mesoscale Eta Model runs. Therefore, the model data used to enhance the analyses are typically no more than 6–12 h old.

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Timothy A. Coleman
,
Richard L. Thompson
, and
Gregory S. Forbes

Abstract

Recent articles have shown that the long-portrayed “tornado alley” in the central plains is not an accurate portrayal of current tornado frequency over the United States. The greatest tornado threat now covers parts of the eastern U.S. This paper shows that there has been a true spatial shift in tornado frequency, dispelling any misconceptions caused by the better visibility of tornadoes in the Great Plains vs. the eastern U.S. Using F/EF1+ tornadoes (the dataset least affected by increasing awareness of tornado locations or by changing rating methods), a 1° × 1° grid, and data for the two 35-year periods 1951-1985 and 1986-2020, we show that since 1951, by critical measures (tornadogenesis events, tornado days, and tornado path length), tornado activity has shifted away from the Great Plains and toward the Midwestern and Southeast U.S.

In addition, tornadoes have trended away from the warm season, especially the Summer, and toward the cold season since 1951. Annual trends in tornadoes by season (Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn) confirm this. All of the increase in F/EF1+ tornadoes in the eastern U.S. is due to an increase in cold season tornadoes. Tornadoes in the western U.S. decreased 25% (from 8451 during 1951-1985 to 6307 during 1986-2020), while tornadoes in the eastern U.S. increased 12% (from 9469 during 1951-1985 to 10595 during 1986-2020). The cities with the largest increases and decreases in tornado activity since 1951 are determined.

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Maike Ahlgrimm
,
Richard M. Forbes
,
Jean-Jacques Morcrette
, and
Roel A. J. Neggers
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Linette N. Boisvert
,
Melinda A. Webster
,
Chelsea L. Parker
, and
Richard M. Forbes

Abstract

The Arctic is warming faster than anywhere on Earth, and with these warming temperatures, there is likely to be more precipitation falling as rain. This precipitation phase change will have profound impacts on the hydrologic cycle, energy balance, and snow and sea ice mass budgets. Here, we examine the number of rainfall days in the Arctic from three reanalyses, ERA-Interim, ERA5, and MERRA-2, over 1980–2016. We show that the number of rainfall days has increased over this period, predominantly in the autumn and in the North Atlantic and peripheral seas, and the length of the rain season has increased in all reanalyses. This is positively correlated to the number of days with above freezing air temperatures and a lengthening of the warm season. ERA-Interim produces significantly more rainfall days than other reanalyses and CloudSat observations, as well as significantly more rainfall when temperatures are below freezing. Investigation into the cloud microphysics schemes revealed that the scheme employed by ERA-Interim allowed for mixed-phase clouds to form rain at temperatures below freezing following a temperature-dependent phase partitioning function between 250 and 273 K. This simple diagnostic treatment erroneously overestimates rain at temperatures below 273 K and produces unrealistic rainfall compared to ERA5 and MERRA-2. This work highlights the importance of having accurate physics and improving microphysical schemes in models for simulating precipitation in the Arctic and the caution that is warranted for interpreting reanalysis trends.

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Richard Manasseh
,
Alexander V. Babanin
,
Cameron Forbes
,
Kate Rickards
,
Irena Bobevski
, and
Andrew Ooi

Abstract

A passive acoustic method of detecting breaking waves of different scales has been developed. The method also showed promise for measuring breaking severity.

Sounds were measured by a subsurface hydrophone in various wind and wave states. A video record of the surface was made simultaneously. Individual sound pulses corresponding to the many individual bubble formations during wave-breaking events typically last only a few tens of milliseconds. Each time a sound-level threshold was exceeded, the acoustic signal was captured over a brief window typical of a bubble formation pulse, registering one count. Each pulse was also analyzed to determine the likely bubble size generating the pulse.

Using the time series of counts and visual observations of the video record, the sound-level threshold that detected bubble formations at a rate optimally discriminating between breaking and nonbreaking waves was determined by a classification-accuracy analysis. This diagnosis of breaking waves was found to be approximately 70%–75% accurate once the optimum threshold had been determined.

The method was then used for detailed analysis of wave-breaking properties across the spectrum. When applied to real field data, a breaking probability distribution could be obtained. This is the rate of occurrence of wave-breaking events at different wave scales. With support from a separate, laboratory experiment, the estimated bubble size is argued to be dependent on the severity of wave breaking and thus to provide information on the energy loss due to the breaking at the measured spectral frequencies. A combination of the breaking probability distribution and the bubble size could lead to direct estimates of spectral distribution of wave dissipation.

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Elisa Spreitzer
,
Roman Attinger
,
Maxi Boettcher
,
Richard Forbes
,
Heini Wernli
, and
Hanna Joos

Abstract

The upper-level potential vorticity (PV) structure plays a key role in the evolution of extratropical weather systems. PV is modified by nonconservative processes, such as cloud latent heating, radiative transfer, and turbulence. Using a Lagrangian method, material PV modification near the tropopause is attributed to specific parameterized processes in the global model of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). In a case study, several flow features identified in a vertical section across an extratropical cyclone experienced strong PV modification. In particular clear-air turbulence at the jet stream is found to be a relevant process (i) for the PV structure of an upper-level front–jet system, corroborating previous observation-based findings of turbulent PV generation; (ii) for the purely turbulent decay of a tropopause fold, identified as an effective process of stratosphere–troposphere exchange; and (iii) in the ridge, where the Lagrangian accumulated turbulent PV modification exhibits a distinct vertical pattern, potentially impacting the strength of the tropopause inversion layer. In contrast, cloud processes affect the near-tropopause PV structure above a warm conveyor belt outflow in the ridge and above cold-sector convection. In agreement with previous studies, radiative PV production dominates in regions with an anomalously low tropopause, where both radiation and convection act to increase the vertical PV gradient across the tropopause. The particular strengths of the Lagrangian diagnostic are that it connects prominent tropopause structures with nonconservative PV modification along the flow and that it quantifies the relative importance of turbulence, radiation, and cloud processes for these modifications.

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