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J. Li, X. Gao, and S. Sorooshian

Abstract

Estimating the water budgets in a small-scale basin is a challenge, especially in the mountainous western United States, where the terrain is complex and observational data in the mountain areas are sparse. This manuscript reports on research that downscaled 5-yr (1999–2004) hydrometeorological fields over the upper Rio Grande basin from a 2.5° NCEP–NCAR reanalysis to a 4-km local scale using a regional climate model [fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesoscale Model (MM5), version 3]. The model can reproduce the terrain-related precipitation distribution—the trend of diurnal, seasonal, and interannual precipitation variability—although poor snow simulation caused it to overestimate precipitation and evapotranspiration in the cold season. The outcomes from the coupled model are also comparable to offline Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) and Land Data Assimilation System (LDAS)/Mosaic land surface simulations that are driven by observed and/or analyzed surface meteorological data.

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Kuo-lin Hsu, Tim Bellerby, and S. Sorooshian

Abstract

A new satellite-based rainfall monitoring algorithm that integrates the strengths of both low Earth-orbiting (LEO) and geostationary Earth-orbiting (GEO) satellite information has been developed. The Lagrangian Model (LMODEL) algorithm combines a 2D cloud-advection tracking system and a GEO data–driven cloud development and rainfall generation model with procedures to update model parameters and state variables in near–real time. The details of the LMODEL algorithm were presented in Part I. This paper describes a comparative validation against ground radar rainfall measurements of 1- and 3-h LMODEL accumulated rainfall outputs. LMODEL rainfall estimates consistently outperform accumulated 3-h microwave (MW)-only rainfall estimates, even before the more restricted spatial coverage provided by the latter is taken into account. In addition, the performance of LMODEL products remains effective and consistent between MW overpasses. Case studies demonstrate that the LMODEL provides the potential to synergize available satellite data to generate useful precipitation measurements at an hourly scale.

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X. Gao, J. Li, and S. Sorooshian

Abstract

This study examines the capabilities and limitations of the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesoscale Model (MM5) in predicting the precipitation and circulation features that accompanied the 2004 North American monsoon (NAM). When the model is reinitialized every 5 days to restrain the growth of modeling errors, its results for precipitation checked at subseasonal time scales (not for individual rainfall events) become comparable with ground- and satellite-based observations as well as with the NAM’s diagnostic characteristics. The modeled monthly precipitation illustrates the evolution patterns of monsoon rainfall, although it underestimates the rainfall amount and coverage area in comparison with observations. The modeled daily precipitation shows the transition from dry to wet episodes on the monsoon onset day over the Arizona–New Mexico region, and the multiday heavy rainfall (>1 mm day−1) and dry periods after the onset. All these modeling predictions agree with observed variations. The model also accurately simulated the onset and ending dates of four major moisture surges over the Gulf of California during the 2004 monsoon season. The model reproduced the strong diurnal variability of the NAM precipitation, but did not predict the observed diurnal feature of the precipitation peak’s shift from the mountains to the coast during local afternoon to late night. In general, the model is able to reproduce the major, critical patterns and dynamic variations of the NAM rainfall at intraseasonal time scales, but still includes errors in precipitation quantity, pattern, and timing. The numerical study suggests that these errors are due largely to deficiencies in the model’s cumulus convective parameterization scheme, which is responsible for the model’s precipitation generation.

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J. Li, X. Gao, and S. Sorooshian

Abstract

This study downscaled more than five years of data (1999–2004) for hydrometeorological fields over the upper Rio Grande basin (URGB) to a 4-km resolution using a regional model [fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Mesoscale Model (MM5, version 3)] and two forcing datasets that include National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP)–NCAR reanalysis-1 (R1) and North America Regional Reanalysis (NARR) data. The long-term high-resolution simulation results show detailed patterns of hydroclimatological fields that are highly related to the characteristics of the regional terrain; the most important of these patterns are precipitation localization features caused by the complex topography. In comparison with station observational data, the downscaling processing, on whichever forcing field is used, generated more accurate surface temperature and humidity fields than the Eta Model and NARR data, although it still included marked errors, such as a negative (positive) bias toward the daily maximum (minimum) temperature and overestimated precipitation, especially in the cold season.

Comparing the downscaling results forced by the NARR and R1 with both the gridded and station observational data shows that under the NARR forcing, the MM5 model produced generally better results for precipitation, temperature, and humidity than it did under the R1 forcing. These improvements were more apparent in winter and spring. During the warm season, although the use of NARR improved the precipitation estimates statistically at the regional (basin) scale, it substantially underestimated them over the southern upper Rio Grande basin, partly because the NARR forcing data exhibited warm and dry biases in the monsoon-active region during the simulation period and improper domain selection. Analyses also indicate that over mountainous regions, both the Climate Prediction Center’s (CPC’s) gridded (0.25°) and NARR forcings underestimate precipitation in comparison with station gauge data.

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Ismail Yucel, W. James Shuttleworth, X. Gao, and S. Sorooshian

Abstract

This study investigates the extent to which assimilating high-resolution remotely sensed cloud cover into the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research (PSU–NCAR) Mesoscale Model (MM5) provides an improved regional diagnosis of downward shortwave surface radiation fluxes and precipitation and enhances the model's ability to make short-range prediction. The high-resolution (4 km × 4 km) clear- and cloudy-sky radiances derived using a cloud-screening algorithm from visible band Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) data were used in the University of Maryland Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment's Surface Radiation Budget (UMD GEWEX/SRB) model to infer the vertically integrated cloud mass via cloud optical thickness. Three-dimensional cloud fields were created that took their horizontal distribution from the satellite image but derived their vertical distribution, in part, from the fields simulated by MM5 during the time step immediately prior to assimilation and, in part, from the observed cloud-top height derived from the infrared band of GOES. Linear interpolation was used to derive 1-min cloud images between 15-min GOES samples, and the resulting images were ingested every minute. Comparisons were made between modeled and observed data taken from the Arizona Meteorological Network (AZMET) in southern Arizona for model runs with and without cloud ingestion. Cloud ingestion substantially improved the ability of the MM5 model to capture temporal and spatial variations in surface fields associated with cloud cover. Experiments in which the model was operated in forecast mode suggest that cloud ingestion gave some limited enhancement in MM5 short-term prediction ability for up to 3 h. However, an analysis suggests that, in order to get additional forecasting capability, it will be necessary to modify the atmospheric dynamics and thermodynamics in the model to be consistent with the ingested cloud fields.

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J. Xu, X. Gao, J. Shuttleworth, S. Sorooshian, and E. Small

Abstract

In this study, the seasonal development of the North American monsoon system (NAMS), as simulated by a mesoscale model during a 22-yr simulation from 1980 through 2001, is assessed. Comparison between model simulations and observations shows that the model simulation reproduces the precipitation, skin temperature, and wind field patterns in the seasonal development (May–July) of the NAMS reasonably well and that the mesoscale features and spatial heterogeneity of the NAMS are described correctly. The onset of the monsoon in the central and southern Sierra Madre Occidental (SMO) in Mexico occurs on 20 June, about 2 weeks earlier than the onset in Sonora, Mexico (6 July), the Sonoran Desert, and central Arizona and New Mexico (8 July). The temperature in Mexico is highest after the onset of the monsoon and then decreases with the increasing monsoon rainfall. However, the temperature in the Sonoran Desert and central Arizona and New Mexico is highest just prior to the onset of the monsoon, and high temperatures may then persist throughout July. The lower-level (700 hPa) zonal wind field reverses from westerly to easterly over the central and southern SMO just before the onset of rain in these regions; this is associated with the abrupt northward movement of the subtropical high over this region. The progression of the subtropical high into central Arizona and New Mexico results in a local reduction in the westerly flow, and although the southwesterly flow weakens, atmospheric moisture is still mainly from the Gulf of California and the eastern Pacific Ocean.

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Kristie J. Franz, Terri S. Hogue, and Soroosh Sorooshian

Abstract

Hydrologic model evaluations have traditionally focused on measuring how closely the model can simulate various characteristics of historical observations. Although advancing hydrologic forecasting is an often-stated goal of numerous modeling studies, testing in a forecasting mode is seldom undertaken, limiting information derived from these analyses. One can overcome this limitation through generation, and subsequent analysis, of ensemble hindcasts. In this study, long-range ensemble hindcasts are generated for the available period of record for a basin in southwestern Idaho for the purpose of evaluating the Snow–Atmosphere–Soil Transfer (SAST) model against the current operational benchmark, the National Weather Service’s (NWS) snow accumulation and ablation model SNOW17. Both snow models were coupled with the NWS operational rainfall runoff model and ensembles of seasonal discharge and weekly snow water equivalent (SWE) were evaluated. Ensemble predictions from both the SAST and SNOW17 models were better than climatology forecasts, for the period studied. In most cases, the accuracy of the SAST-generated predictions was similar to the SNOW17-generated predictions, except during periods of significant melting. Differences in model performance are partially attributed to initial condition errors. After updating the SWE state in the snow models with the observed SWE, the forecasts were improved during the first 2–4 weeks of the forecast window and the skills were essentially equal in both forecasting systems for the study watershed. Climate dominated the forecast uncertainty in the latter part of the forecast window while initial conditions controlled the forecast skill in the first 3–4 weeks of the forecast. The use of hindcasting in the snow model analysis revealed that, given the dominance of the initial conditions on forecast skill, streamflow predictions will be most improved through the use of state updating.

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J. Li, X. Gao, R. A. Maddox, and S. Sorooshian

Abstract

In this article, four continually processed sea surface temperature (SST) datasets, including the Reynolds SST (RYD), the global final analysis of skin temperature at oceans (FNL), and two Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Aqua SSTs retrieved from thermal infrared imagery (TIR) and midinfrared imagery (MIR), were compared. The results show variations from each other. In comparison with the RYD SST, the FNL data have −0.5° ∼ 0.5°C perturbations, while the TIR and MIR SSTs possess larger deviations of −2° ∼ 1°C, mainly due to algorithm and/or sensor differences in these SST datasets.

A regional model, the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research (Penn State–NCAR) Mesoscale Model (MM5), was used to investigate whether model atmospheric predictions, especially those concerning precipitation during the North American monsoon season, are sensitive to these SST variations. A comparison of rainfall, atmospheric height, temperature, and wind fields produced by model results, reanalysis data, and observations indicates that, at monthly scale, the model shows changes in the simulations for three consecutive years; in particular, rainfall amounts, timing, and even patterns vary at some specific regions. Forced by the MODIS Aqua midinfrared SST (MIR), which includes large regions with SST values lower than the conventional Reynolds SST, the MM5 rain field predictions show reduced errors over land and oceans compared to when the model is forced by other SST data. Specifically, rainfall estimates are improved over the offshore of southern Mexico, the Gulf of Mexico, the coastal regions of southern and eastern Mexico, and the southwestern U.S. monsoon active region, but only slightly improved over the monsoon core and the high-elevated Great Plains. Using MIR SST data, one is also capable of improving geopotential height and temperature fields in comparison with the reanalysis data.

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CONFIDENCE BUILDERS

Evaluating Seasonal Climate Forecasts from User Perspectives

Holly C. Hartmann, Thomas C. Pagano, S. Sorooshian, and R. Bales

Water managers, cattle ranchers, and wildland fire managers face several barriers to effectively using climate forecasts. Repeatedly, these decision makers state that they lack any quantitative basis for evaluating forecast credibility. That is because the evaluations currently available typically reflect forecaster perspectives rather than those of users, or are not available in forms that users can easily obtain or understand. Seasonal climate forecasts are evaluated from the perspective of distinct user groups, considering lead times, seasons, and criteria relevant to their specific situations. Examples show how results targeted for different user perspectives can provide different assessments of forecast performance.

The forecasts evaluated are the official seasonal temperature and precipitation outlooks issued by the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, produced in their present format since December 1994. It is considered how forecast formats can affect the ease, accuracy, and reliability of interpretation, and suggest that the “climatology” designation be modified to better reflect complete forecast uncertainty. A graphical product is presented that tracks time evolution of the forecasts and subsequent observations. The framework for evaluation has multiple quantitative forecast performance criteria that allow individuals to choose the level of sophistication of analysis that they prefer.

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J. Li, X. Gao, R. A. Maddox, and S. Sorooshian

Abstract

Rainfall evolution and diurnal variation are important components in the North American monsoon system (NAMS). In this study these components are numerically studied using the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research (PSU–NCAR) Mesoscale Model (MM5) with high resolution (12-km grids) in contrast to most previous model studies that used relatively coarse spatial resolutions (>25 km grids). The model was initialized at the start of each month and allowed to run for 31 days.

The study shows that, in general, the model results broadly matched the patterns of satellite-retrieved rainfall data for monthly rainfall accumulation. The rainfall timing evolution in the monsoon core region predicted by the model generally matched the gauge observations. However, the differences among the three precipitation estimates (model, satellite, and gauge) are obvious, especially in July. The rainfall diurnal cycle pattern was reproduced in the monsoon core region of western Mexico, but there were differences in the diurnal intensity and timing between modeled and observed results. Furthermore, the model cannot capture the diurnal variation over Arizona.

Modeling results showed heavy monsoon rains shift northward along the western Mexico coast in association with the northward evolution of the subtropical highs. This is consistent with previous data analyses. The rainfall diurnal cycle was associated mainly with sea–land/mountain–valley circulations over western Mexico and adjacent oceans.

The simulations show that the model has deficiencies in predicting precipitation over the Gulf of Mexico. The model cannot reproduce the low-level inversion above the marine boundary layers and thus does not generate enough convective inhibition (CIN) to suppress the convection. The model also cannot produce realistic variations of day-to-day atmospheric conditions with only a single initialization at the start of the month.

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