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Robert Conrick and Clifford F. Mass

Abstract

This study evaluates moist physics in the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model using observations collected during the Olympic Mountains Experiment (OLYMPEX) field campaign by the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) satellite, including data from the GPM Microwave Imager (GMI) and Dual-Frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR) instruments. Even though WRF using Thompson et al. microphysics was able to realistically simulate water vapor concentrations approaching the barrier, there was underprediction of cloud water content and rain rates offshore and over western slopes of terrain. We showed that underprediction of rain rate occurred when cloud water was underpredicted, establishing a connection between cloud water and rain-rate deficits. Evaluations of vertical hydrometeor mixing ratio profiles indicated that WRF produced too little cloud water and rainwater content, particularly below 2.5 km, with excessive snow above this altitude. Simulated mixing ratio profiles were less influenced by coastal proximity or midlatitude storm sector than were GMI profiles. Evaluations of different synoptic storm sectors suggested that postfrontal storm sectors were simulated most realistically, while warm sectors had the largest errors. DPR observations confirm the underprediction of rain rates noted by GMI, with no dependence on whether rain occurs over land or water. Finally, WRF underpredicted radar reflectivity below 2 km and overpredicted above 2 km, consistent with GMI vertical mixing ratio profiles.

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Robert Conrick and Clifford F. Mass

Abstract

The OLYMPEX field campaign, which took place around the Olympic Mountains of Washington State during winter 2015/16, provided data for evaluating the simulated microphysics and precipitation over and near that barrier. Using OLYMPEX observations, this paper assesses precipitation and associated microphysics in the WRF-ARW model over the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Model precipitation from the University of Washington real-time WRF forecast system during the OLYMPEX field program (November 2015–February 2016) and an extended period (2008–18) showed persistent underprediction of precipitation, reaching 100 mm yr−1 over the windward side of the coastal terrain. Increasing horizontal resolution does not substantially reduce this underprediction. Evaluating surface disdrometer observations during the 2015/16 OLYMPEX winter, it was found that the operational University of Washington WRF modeling system using Thompson microphysics poorly simulated the rain drop size distribution over a windward coastal valley. Although liquid water content was represented realistically, drop diameters were overpredicted, and, consequently, the rain drop distribution intercept parameter was underpredicted. During two heavy precipitation periods, WRF realistically simulated environmental conditions, including wind speed, thermodynamic structures, integrated moisture transport, and melting levels. Several microphysical parameterization schemes were tested in addition to the Thompson scheme, with each exhibiting similar biases for these two events. We show that the parameterization of aerosols over the coastal Northwest offered only minor improvement.

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Robert Conrick, Heather Dawn Reeves, and Shiyuan Zhong

Abstract

Six forecasts of a lake-effect-snow event off Lake Erie were conducted using the Weather Research and Forecasting Model to determine how the quantitative precipitation forecast (QPF) was affected when the boundary- and surface-layer parameterization schemes were changed. These forecasts showed strong variability, with differences in liquid-equivalent precipitation maxima in excess of 20 mm over a 6-h period. The quasi-normal scale elimination (QNSE) schemes produced the highest accumulations, and the Mellor–Yamada–Nakanishi–Niino (MYNN) schemes produced the lowest. Differences in precipitation were primarily due to different sensible heat flux F H and moisture flux F Q off the lake, with lower F H and F Q in MYNN leading to comparatively weak low-level instability and, consequently, reduced ascent and production of hydrometeors. The different F H and F Q were found to have two causes. In QNSE, the higher F H and F Q were due to the decision to use a Prandtl number P R of 0.72 (all other schemes use a P R of 1). In MYNN, the lower F H and F Q were due to the manner in which the similarity stability function for heat ψ h is functionally dependent on the temperature gradient between the surface and the lowest model layer. It is not known what assumptions are more accurate for environments that are typical for lake-effect snow, but comparisons with available observations and Rapid-Update-Cycle analyses indicated that MYNN had the most accurate results.

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Joseph P. Zagrodnik, Lynn McMurdie, and Robert Conrick

Abstract

High-resolution numerical model simulations of six different cases during the 2015/16 Olympic Mountains Experiment (OLYMPEX) are used to examine dynamic and microphysical precipitation processes on both the full barrier-scale and smaller sub-barrier-scale ridges and valleys. The degree to which stratiform precipitation within midlatitude cyclones is modified over the coastal Olympic Mountains range was found to be strongly dependent on the synoptic environment within a cyclone’s prefrontal and warm sectors. In prefrontal sectors, barrier-scale ascent over stably stratified flow resulted in enhanced ice production aloft at the coast and generally upstream of higher terrain. At low levels, stable flow orientated transverse to sub-barrier-scale windward ridges generated small-scale mountain waves, which failed to produce enough cloud water to appreciably enhance precipitation on the scale of the windward ridges. In moist-neutral warm sectors, the upstream side of the barrier exhibited broad ascent oriented along the windward ridges with lesser regions of adjacent downward motion. Significant quantities of cloud water were produced over coastal foothills with further production of cloud water on the lower-windward slopes. Ice production above the melting layer occurred directly over the barrier where the ice particles were further advected downstream by cross-barrier winds and spilled over into the lee. The coastal foothills were found to be essential for the production and maintenance of cloud water upstream of the primary topographic barrier, allowing additional time for hydrometeors to grow to precipitation size by autoconversion and collection before falling out on the lower-windward slopes.

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Robert Conrick, Clifford F. Mass, and Qi Zhong

Abstract

Two Kelvin–Helmholtz (KH) wave events over western Washington State were simulated and evaluated using observations from the Olympic Mountains Experiment (OLYMPEX) field campaign. The events, 12 and 17 December 2015, were simulated realistically by the WRF-ARW Model, duplicating the mesoscale environment, location, and structure of embedded KH waves, which had observed wavelengths of approximately 5 km. In simulations of both cases, waves developed from instability within an intense shear layer, caused by low-level easterly flow surmounted by westerly winds aloft. The low-level easterlies resulted from blocking by the Olympic Mountains in the 12 December case, while in the 17 December event, the easterly flow was produced by the synoptic environment. Simulated microphysics were evaluated for both cases using OLYMPEX observations. When the KH waves were within the melting level, simulated microphysical fields, such as hydrometeor mixing ratios, evinced considerable oscillatory behavior. In contrast, when waves were located below the melting level, the microphysical response was attenuated. Turning off the model’s microphysics scheme and latent heating resulted in weakened KH wave activity, while removing the Olympic Mountains eliminated KH waves in the 12 December event but not the 17 December case. Finally, the impact of several microphysics parameterizations on KH activity was evaluated for both events.

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Clifford F. Mass, Robert Conrick, Nicholas Weber, and Joseph P. Zagrodnik

Abstract

On 27 January 2018, a highly localized, strong wind event occurred along the north shore of Lake Quinault, Washington. The resulting loss of large old-growth trees in a roughly 0.5-km2 region led to blocked roads and power outages. Nearby surface stations did not record anomalous winds, and no tree damage was reported in the surrounding region. Based on public accounts and a nearby seismometer, it appears that the strong winds lasted less than 10 min. Surface and aerial damage surveys showed that the trees fell from a different direction (northerly) than the synoptic or mesoscale f low (southwesterly to southeasterly). Based on high-resolution Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model simulations, it appears that the damaging northerly winds were the result of a strong atmospheric rotor produced by a high-amplitude mountain wave. A simulation with 148-m grid spacing produced a rotor at the same time and location as the treefalls. Synoptic analysis and the high-resolution simulation showed that moderately strong southeasterly flow and a stable layer associated with the approaching occluded front interacted with a ∼750-m-high upstream mountain ridge to produce the mountain wave and associated rotor circulation. The combination of an inversion and strong shear at and above the upstream ridge were outliers in a climatology of soundings from the nearby Quillayute rawinsonde site, suggesting that such intense mountain-wave rotors are unusual in this valley.

Open access
Robert Conrick, Joseph P. Zagrodnik, and Clifford F. Mass

Abstract

Radar retrievals of drop size distribution (DSD) parameters are developed and evaluated over the mountainous Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. The observations used to develop retrievals were collected during the 2015/16 Olympic Mountain Experiment (OLYMPEX) and included the NASA S-band dual-polarimetric (NPOL) radar and a collection of second-generation Particle Size and Velocity (PARSIVEL2) disdrometers over the windward slopes of the barrier. Nonlinear and random forest regressions are applied to the PARSIVEL2 data to develop retrievals for median volume diameter, liquid water content, and rain rate. Improvement in DSD retrieval accuracy, defined by the mean error of the retrieval relative to PARSIVEL2 observations, was achieved when using the random forest model when compared with nonlinear regression. Evaluation of disdrometer observations and the retrievals from NPOL indicate that the radar retrievals can accurately reproduce observed DSDs in this region, including the common wintertime regime of small but numerous raindrops that is important there. NPOL retrievals during the OLYMPEX period are further evaluated using two-dimensional video disdrometers (2DVD) and vertically pointing Micro Rain Radars. Results indicate that radar retrievals using random forests may be skillful in capturing DSD characteristics in the lowest portions of the atmosphere.

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