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  • Author or Editor: STEVEN M. MARTINAITIS x
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Steven M. Martinaitis

Abstract

Statistical evaluations of tornado warnings issued during recent tropical cyclone events yielded an above-average false alarm ratio. This study analyzed tornado-warned convection associated with Tropical Storms Debby (2012) and Andrea (2013) using superresolution and dual-polarization data from Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler radars located throughout the Florida peninsula to identify precursor characteristics and signatures that would distinguish tornadic events prior to tornadogenesis. A series of radar-based interrogation guidance at varying ranges from radar is presented to help facilitate the reduction of the tornado-warning false alarm ratio without compromising the probability of detection. For convection within 74.1 km from the nearest radar, low-level velocity characteristics include a rotational velocity ≥ 10.3 m s−1 (20 kt), shear across the rotation ≥ 0.010 s−1, and a contracting rotation diameter. The convection should also exhibit supercell reflectivity signatures and at least a mesocyclone velocity enhancement signature or horizontal separation of greater Z DR and K DP values. Guidance at a range from 74.1 to 129.6 km is similar except for not requiring the presence of a supercell reflectivity signature and the change of the rotational velocity guidance to ≥7.7 m s−1 (15 kt) at the 0.5°-elevation angle. Convection at a range beyond 129.6 km only requires a rotational velocity ≥ 7.7 m s−1 (15 kt) at the 0.5°-elevation angle. Evaluation of the radar interrogation guidance for tornadic events and tornado-warned convection for six tropical cyclones reduced the number of false alarm events by 28.9% and reduced the false alarm ratio from 0.740 to 0.669.

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Steven M. Martinaitis, Heather M. Grams, Carrie Langston, Jian Zhang, and Kenneth Howard

Abstract

Precipitation values estimated by radar are assumed to be the amount of precipitation that occurred at the surface, yet this notion is inaccurate. Numerous atmospheric and microphysical processes can alter the precipitation rate between the radar beam elevation and the surface. One such process is evaporation. This study determines the applicability of integrating an evaporation correction scheme for real-time radar-derived mosaicked precipitation rates to reduce quantitative precipitation estimate (QPE) overestimation and to reduce the coverage of false surface precipitation. An evaporation technique previously developed for large-scale numerical modeling is applied to Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor (MRMS) precipitation rates through the use of 2D and 3D numerical weather prediction (NWP) atmospheric parameters as well as basic radar properties. Hourly accumulated QPE with evaporation adjustment compared against gauge observations saw an average reduction of the overestimation bias by 57%–76% for rain events and 42%–49% for primarily snow events. The removal of false surface precipitation also reduced the number of hourly gauge observations that were considered as “false zero” observations by 52.1% for rain and 38.2% for snow. Optimum computational efficiency was achieved through the use of simplified equations and hourly 10-km horizontal resolution NWP data. The run time for the evaporation correction algorithm is 6–7 s.

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Stephen B. Cocks, Jian Zhang, Steven M. Martinaitis, Youcun Qi, Brian Kaney, and Kenneth Howard

Abstract

Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor (MRMS) quantitative precipitation estimation (QPE) radar only (Q3RAD), Q3RAD local gauge corrected (Q3gc), dual polarization (Dual Pol), legacy Precipitation Processing System (PPS), and National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) stage IV product performance were evaluated for data collected east of the Rockies during the 2014 warm season. For over 22 000 radar QPE–gauge data pairs, Q3RAD had a higher correlation coefficient (0.85) and a lower mean absolute error (9.4 mm) than the Dual Pol (0.83 and 10.5 mm, respectively) and PPS (0.79 and 10.8 mm, respectively). Q3RAD performed best when the radar beam sampled precipitation within or above the melting layer because of its use of a reflectivity mosaic corrected for brightband contamination. Both NCEP stage IV and Q3gc showed improvement over the radar-only QPEs; while stage IV exhibited the lower errors, the performance of Q3gc was remarkable considering the estimates were automatically generated in near–real time. Regional analysis indicated Q3RAD outperformed Dual Pol and PPS over the southern plains, Southeast/mid-Atlantic, and Northeast. Over the northern United States, Q3RAD had a higher wet bias below the melting layer than both Dual Pol and PPS; within and above the melting layer, Q3RAD exhibited the lowest errors. The Q3RAD wet bias was likely due to MRMS’s overestimation of tropical rain areas in continental regions and applying a high yield reflectivity–rain-rate relationship. An adjustment based on precipitation climatology reduced the wet bias errors by ~22% and will be implemented in the operational MRMS in the fall of 2016.

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Stephen B. Cocks, Steven M. Martinaitis, Brian Kaney, Jian Zhang, and Kenneth Howard

Abstract

A recently implemented operational quantitative precipitation estimation (QPE) product, the Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor (MRMS) radar-only QPE (Q3RAD), mosaicked dual-polarization QPE, and National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) stage II QPE were evaluated for nine cool season precipitation events east of the Rockies. These automated, radar-only products were compared with the forecaster quality-controlled NCEP stage IV product, which was considered as the benchmark for QPE. Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) 24-h accumulation data were used to evaluate product performance while hourly automated gauge data (quality controlled) were used for spatial and time series analysis. Statistical analysis indicated all three radar-only products had a distinct underestimate bias, likely due to the radar beam partially or completely overshooting the predominantly shallow winter precipitation systems. While the forecaster quality-controlled NCEP stage IV estimates had the best overall performance, Q3RAD had the next best performance, which was significant as Q3RAD is available in real time whereas NCEP stage IV estimates are not. Stage II estimates exhibited a distinct tendency to underestimate gauge totals while dual-polarization estimates exhibited significant errors related to melting layer challenges.

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ALAN GERARD, STEVEN M. MARTINAITIS, JONATHAN J. GOURLEY, KENNETH W. HOWARD, and JIAN ZHANG

Abstract

The Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor (MRMS) system is an operational, state-of-the-science hydrometeorological data analysis and nowcasting framework that combines data from multiple radar networks, satellites, surface observational systems, and numerical weather prediction models to produce a suite of real-time, decision-support products every two minutes over the contiguous United States and southern Canada. The Flooded Locations and Simulated Hydrograph (FLASH) component of the MRMS system was designed for the monitoring and prediction of flash floods across small time and spatial scales required for urban areas given their rapid hydrologic response to precipitation. Developed at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in collaboration with the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies (CIMMS) and other research entities, the objective for MRMS and FLASH is to be the world’s most advanced system for severe weather and storm-scale hydrometeorology, leveraging the latest science and observation systems to produce the most accurate and reliable hydrometeorological and severe weather analyses. NWS forecasters, the public and the private sector utilize a variety of products from the MRMS and FLASH systems for hydrometeorological situational awareness and to provide warnings to the public and other users about potential impacts from flash flooding. This article will examine the performance of hydrometeorological products from MRMS and FLASH, and provide perspectives on how NWS forecasters use these products in the prediction of flash flood events with an emphasis on the urban environment.

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Alan Gerard, Steven M. Martinaitis, Jonathan J. Gourley, Kenneth W. Howard, and Jian Zhang

Abstract

The Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor (MRMS) system is an operational, state-of-the-science hydrometeorological data analysis and nowcasting framework that combines data from multiple radar networks, satellites, surface observational systems, and numerical weather prediction models to produce a suite of real-time, decision-support products every 2 min over the contiguous United States and southern Canada. The Flooded Locations and Simulated Hydrograph (FLASH) component of the MRMS system was designed for the monitoring and prediction of flash floods across small time and spatial scales required for urban areas given their rapid hydrologic response to precipitation. Developed at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in collaboration with the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies (CIMMS) and other research entities, the objective for MRMS and FLASH is to be the world’s most advanced system for severe weather and storm-scale hydrometeorology, leveraging the latest science and observation systems to produce the most accurate and reliable hydrometeorological and severe weather analyses. NWS forecasters, the public, and the private sector utilize a variety of products from the MRMS and FLASH systems for hydrometeorological situational awareness and to provide warnings to the public and other users about potential impacts from flash flooding. This article will examine the performance of hydrometeorological products from MRMS and FLASH and provide perspectives on how NWS forecasters use these products in the prediction of flash flood events with an emphasis on the urban environment.

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Steven M. Martinaitis, Stephen B. Cocks, Youcun Qi, Brian T. Kaney, Jian Zhang, and Kenneth Howard

Abstract

Precipitation gauge observations are routinely classified as ground truth and are utilized in the verification and calibration of radar-derived quantitative precipitation estimation (QPE). This study quantifies the challenges of utilizing automated hourly gauge networks to measure winter precipitation within the real-time Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor (MRMS) system from 1 October 2013 to 1 April 2014. Gauge observations were compared against gridded radar-derived QPE over the entire MRMS domain. Gauges that reported no precipitation were classified as potentially stuck in the MRMS system if collocated hourly QPE values indicated nonzero precipitation. The average number of potentially stuck gauge observations per hour doubled in environments defined by below-freezing surface wet-bulb temperatures, while the average number of observations when both the gauge and QPE reported precipitation decreased by 77%. Periods of significant winter precipitation impacts resulted in over a thousand stuck gauge observations, or over 10%–18% of all gauge observations across the MRMS domain, per hour. Partial winter impacts were observed prior to the gauges becoming stuck. Simultaneous postevent thaw and precipitation resulted in unreliable gauge values, which can introduce inaccurate bias correction factors when calibrating radar-derived QPE. The authors then describe a methodology to quality control (QC) gauge observations compromised by winter precipitation based on these results. A comparison of two gauge instrumentation types within the National Weather Service (NWS) Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) network highlights the need for improved gauge instrumentation for more accurate liquid-equivalent values of winter precipitation.

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Nusrat Yussouf, Katie A. Wilson, Steven M. Martinaitis, Humberto Vergara, Pamela L. Heinselman, and Jonathan J. Gourley

Abstract

The goal of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Warn-on-Forecast (WoF) program is to provide frequently updating, probabilistic model guidance that will enable National Weather Service (NWS) forecasters to produce more continuous communication of hazardous weather threats (e.g., heavy rainfall, flash floods, damaging wind, large hail, and tornadoes) between the watch and warning temporal and spatial scales. To evaluate the application of this WoF concept for probabilistic short-term flash flood prediction, the 0–3-h rainfall forecasts from NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory’s (NSSL) experimental WoF System (WoFS) were integrated as the forcing to the NWS operational hydrologic modeling core within the Flooded Locations and Simulated Hydrographs (FLASH) system. Initial assessment of the potential impacts of probabilistic short-term flash flood forecasts from this coupled atmosphere–hydrology (WoFS-FLASH) modeling system were evaluated in the 2018 Hydrometeorology Testbed Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor Hydrology experiment held in Norman, Oklahoma. During the 3-week experiment period, a total of nine NWS forecasters analyzed three retrospective flash flood events in archive mode. This study will describe specifically what information participants extracted from the WoFS-FLASH products during these three archived events, and how this type of information is expected to impact operational decision-making processes. Overall feedback from the testbed participants’ evaluations show promise for the coupled NSSL WoFS-FLASH system probabilistic flash flood model guidance to enable earlier assessment and detection of flash flood threats and to advance the current warning lead time for these events.

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Steven M. Martinaitis, Stephen B. Cocks, Andrew P. Osborne, Micheal J. Simpson, Lin Tang, Jian Zhang, and Kenneth W. Howard

Abstract

Hurricane Harvey in 2017 generated one of the most catastrophic rainfall events in United States history. Numerous gauge observations in Texas exceeded 1200 mm, and the record accumulations resulted in 65 direct fatalities from rainfall-induced flooding. This was followed by Hurricane Florence in 2018, where multiple regions in North Carolina received over 750 mm of rainfall. The Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor (MRMS) system provides the unique perspective of applying fully automated seamless radar mosaics and locally gauge-corrected products for these two historical tropical cyclone rainfall events. This study investigates the performance of various MRMS quantitative precipitation estimation (QPE) products as it pertains to rare extreme tropical cyclone rainfall events. Various biases were identified in the radar-only approaches, which were mitigated in a new dual-polarimetric synthetic radar QPE approach. A local gauge correction of radar-derived QPE provided statistical improvements over the radar-only products but introduced consistent underestimation biases attributed to undercatch from tropical cyclone winds. This study then introduces a conceptual methodology to bulk correct for gauge wind undercatch across the numerous gauge networks ingested by the MRMS system. Adjusting the hourly gauge observations for wind undercatch resulted in increased storm-total accumulations for both tropical cyclones that better matched independent gauge observations, yet its application across large network collections highlighted the challenges of applying a singular wind undercatch correction scheme for significant wind events (e.g., tropical cyclones) while recognizing the need for increased metadata on gauge characteristics.

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Steven M. Martinaitis, Jonathan J. Gourley, Zachary L. Flamig, Elizabeth M. Argyle, Robert A. Clark III, Ami Arthur, Brandon R. Smith, Jessica M. Erlingis, Sarah Perfater, and Benjamin Albright

Abstract

There are numerous challenges with the forecasting and detection of flash floods, one of the deadliest weather phenomena in the United States. Statistical metrics of flash flood warnings over recent years depict a generally stagnant warning performance, while regional flash flood guidance utilized in warning operations was shown to have low skill scores. The Hydrometeorological Testbed—Hydrology (HMT-Hydro) experiment was created to allow operational forecasters to assess emerging products and techniques designed to improve the prediction and warning of flash flooding. Scientific goals of the HMT-Hydro experiment included the evaluation of gridded products from the Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor (MRMS) and Flooded Locations and Simulated Hydrographs (FLASH) product suites, including the experimental Coupled Routing and Excess Storage (CREST) model, the application of user-defined probabilistic forecasts in experimental flash flood watches and warnings, and the utility of the Hazard Services software interface with flash flood recommenders in real-time experimental warning operations. The HMT-Hydro experiment ran in collaboration with the Flash Flood and Intense Rainfall (FFaIR) experiment at the Weather Prediction Center to simulate the real-time workflow between a national center and a local forecast office, as well as to facilitate discussions on the challenges of short-term flash flood forecasting. Results from the HMT-Hydro experiment highlighted the utility of MRMS and FLASH products in identifying the spatial coverage and magnitude of flash flooding, while evaluating the perception and reliability of probabilistic forecasts in flash flood watches and warnings.

NSSL scientists and NWS forecasters evaluate new tools and techniques through real-time test bed operations for the improvement of flash flood detection and warning operations.

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