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Seth Saslo and Steven J. Greybush

Abstract

Lake-effect snow (LES) is a cold-season mesoscale convective phenomenon that can lead to significant snowfall rates and accumulations in the Great Lakes region of the United States. While limited-area numerical weather prediction models have shown skill in prediction of warm-season convective storms, forecasting the sharp nature of LES precipitation timing, intensity, and location is difficult because of model error and initial and boundary condition uncertainties. Ensemble forecasting can incorporate and quantify some sources of forecast error, but ensemble design must be considered. This study examines the relative contributions of forecast uncertainties to LES forecast error using a regional convection-allowing data assimilation and ensemble prediction system. Ensembles are developed using various methods of perturbations to simulate a long-lived and high-precipitation LES event in December 2013, and forecast performance is evaluated using observations including those from the Ontario Winter Lake-Effect Systems (OWLeS) campaign. Model lateral boundary conditions corresponding to weather conditions beyond the Great Lakes region play an influential role in LES precipitation forecasts and their uncertainty, as evidenced by ensemble spread, particularly at lead times beyond one day. A strong forecast dependence on regional initial conditions was shown using data assimilation. This sensitivity impacts the timing and intensity of predicted precipitation, as well as band location and orientation assessed with an object-based verification approach, giving insight into the time scales of practical predictability of LES. Overall, an assimilation-cycling convection-allowing ensemble prediction system could improve future lake-effect snow precipitation forecasts and analyses and can help quantify and understand sources of forecast uncertainty.

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Steven J. Greybush, Seth Saslo, and Richard Grumm

Abstract

The ensemble predictability of the January 2015 and 2016 East Coast winter storms is assessed, with model precipitation forecasts verified against observational datasets. Skill scores and reliability diagrams indicate that the large ensemble spread produced by operational forecasts was warranted given the actual forecast errors imposed by practical predictability limits. For the 2015 storm, uncertainties along the western edge’s sharp precipitation gradient are linked to position errors of the coastal low, which are traced to the positioning of the preceding 500-hPa wave pattern using the ensemble sensitivity technique. Predictability horizon diagrams indicate the forecast lead time in terms of initial detection, emergence of a signal, and convergence of solutions for an event. For the 2016 storm, the synoptic setup was detected at least 6 days in advance by global ensembles, whereas the predictability of mesoscale features is limited to hours. Convection-permitting WRF ensemble forecasts downscaled from the GEFS resolve mesoscale snowbands and demonstrate sensitivity to synoptic and mesoscale ensemble perturbations, as evidenced by changes in location and timing. Several perturbation techniques are compared, with stochastic techniques [the stochastic kinetic energy backscatter scheme (SKEBS) and stochastically perturbed parameterization tendency (SPPT)] and multiphysics configurations improving performance of both the ensemble mean and spread over the baseline initial conditions/boundary conditions (IC/BC) perturbation run. This study demonstrates the importance of ensembles and convective-allowing models for forecasting and decision support for east coast winter storms.

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Shunji Kotsuki, Steven J. Greybush, and Takemasa Miyoshi

Abstract

With the serial treatment of observations in the ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF), the assimilation order of observations is usually assumed to have no significant impact on analysis accuracy. However, Nerger derived that analyses with different assimilation orders are different if covariance localization is applied in the observation space. This study explores whether the assimilation order can be optimized to systematically improve the filter estimates. A mathematical demonstration of a simple two-dimensional case indicates that different assimilation orders can cause different analyses, although the differences are two orders of magnitude smaller than the analysis increments if two identical observation error variances are the same size as the two identical state error variances. Numerical experiments using the Lorenz-96 40-variable model show that the small difference due to different assimilation orders could eventually result in a significant difference in analysis accuracy. Several ordering rules are tested, and the results show that an ordering rule that gives a better forecast relative to future observations improves the analysis accuracy. In addition, the analysis is improved significantly by ordering observations from worse to better impacts using the ensemble forecast sensitivity to observations (EFSO), which estimates how much each observation reduces or increases the forecast error. With the EFSO ordering rule, the change in error during the serial assimilation process is similar to that obtained by the experimentally found best sampled assimilation order. The ordering has more impact when the ensemble size is smaller relative to the degrees of freedom of the dynamical system.

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Steven J. Greybush, Sue Ellen Haupt, and George S. Young

Abstract

Previous methods for creating consensus forecasts weight individual ensemble members based upon their relative performance over the previous N days, implicitly making a short-term persistence assumption about the underlying flow regime. A postprocessing scheme in which model performance is linked to underlying weather regimes could improve the skill of deterministic ensemble model consensus forecasts. Here, principal component analysis of several synoptic- and mesoscale fields from the North American Regional Reanalysis dataset provides an objective means for characterizing atmospheric regimes. Clustering techniques, including K-means and a genetic algorithm, are developed that use the resulting principal components to distinguish among the weather regimes. This pilot study creates a weighted consensus from 48-h surface temperature predictions produced by the University of Washington Mesoscale Ensemble, a varied-model (differing physics and parameterization schemes) multianalysis ensemble with eight members. Different optimal weights are generated for each weather regime. A second regime-dependent consensus technique uses linear regression to predict the relative performance of the ensemble members based upon the principal components. Consensus forecasts obtained by the regime-dependent schemes are compared using cross validation with traditional N-day ensemble consensus forecasts for four locations in the Pacific Northwest, and show improvement over methods that rely on the short-term persistence assumption.

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Steven J. Greybush, Eugenia Kalnay, Takemasa Miyoshi, Kayo Ide, and Brian R. Hunt

Abstract

In ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF) data assimilation, localization modifies the error covariance matrices to suppress the influence of distant observations, removing spurious long-distance correlations. In addition to allowing efficient parallel implementation, this takes advantage of the atmosphere’s lower dimensionality in local regions. There are two primary methods for localization. In B localization, the background error covariance matrix elements are reduced by a Schur product so that correlations between grid points that are far apart are removed. In R localization, the observation error covariance matrix is multiplied by a distance-dependent function, so that far away observations are considered to have infinite error. Successful numerical weather prediction depends upon well-balanced initial conditions to avoid spurious propagation of inertial-gravity waves. Previous studies note that B localization can disrupt the relationship between the height gradient and the wind speed of the analysis increments, resulting in an analysis that can be significantly ageostrophic.

This study begins with a comparison of the accuracy and geostrophic balance of EnKF analyses using no localization, B localization, and R localization with simple one-dimensional balanced waves derived from the shallow-water equations, indicating that the optimal length scale for R localization is shorter than for B localization, and that for the same length scale R localization is more balanced. The comparison of localization techniques is then expanded to the Simplified Parameterizations, Primitive Equation Dynamics (SPEEDY) global atmospheric model. Here, natural imbalance of the slow manifold must be contrasted with undesired imbalance introduced by data assimilation. Performance of the two techniques is comparable, also with a shorter optimal localization distance for R localization than for B localization.

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Xingchen Yang, Sanjib Sharma, Ridwan Siddique, Steven J. Greybush, and Alfonso Mejia

Abstract

The potential of Bayesian model averaging (BMA) and heteroscedastic censored logistic regression (HCLR) to postprocess precipitation ensembles is investigated. For this, outputs from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) 11-member Global Ensemble Forecast System Reforecast, version 2 (GEFSRv2), dataset are used. As part of the experimental setting, 24-h precipitation accumulations and forecast lead times of 24 to 120 h are used, over the mid-Atlantic region (MAR) of the United States. In contrast with previous postprocessing studies, a wider range of forecasting conditions is considered here when evaluating BMA and HCLR. Additionally, BMA and HCLR have not yet been compared against each other under a common and consistent experimental setting. To compare and verify the postprocessors, different metrics are used (e.g., skills scores and reliability diagrams) conditioned upon the forecast lead time, precipitation threshold, and season. Overall, HCLR tends to slightly outperform BMA but the differences among the postprocessors are not as significant. In the future, an alternative approach could be to combine HCLR with BMA to take advantage of their relative strengths.

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Daniel T. Eipper, Steven J. Greybush, George S. Young, Seth Saslo, Todd D. Sikora, and Richard D. Clark

Abstract

Lake-effect snowstorms are often observed to manifest as dominant bands, commonly produce heavy localized snowfall, and may extend large distances inland, resulting in hazards and high societal impact. Some studies of dominant bands have documented concomitant environmental baroclinity (i.e., baroclinity occurring at a scale larger than the width of the parent lake), but the interaction of this baroclinity with the inland structure of dominant bands has been largely unexplored. In this study, the thermodynamic environment and thermodynamic and kinematic structure of simulated dominant bands are examined using WRF reanalyses at 3-km horizontal resolution and an innovative technique for selecting the most representative member from the WRF ensemble. Three reanalysis periods are selected from the Ontario Winter Lake-effect Systems (OWLeS) field campaign, encompassing 185 simulation hours, including 155 h in which dominant bands are identified. Environmental baroclinity is commonly observed during dominant-band periods and occurs in both the north–south and east–west directions. Sources of this baroclinity are identified and discussed. In addition, case studies are conducted for simulation hours featuring weak and strong along-band environmental baroclinity, resulting in weak and strong inland extent, respectively. These contrasting cases offer insight into one mechanism by which along-band environmental baroclinity can influence the inland structure and intensity of dominant bands: in the case with strong environmental baroclinity, inland portions of this band formed under weak instability and therefore exhibit slow overturning, enabling advection far inland under strong winds, whereas the nearshore portion forms under strong instability, and the enhanced overturning eventually leads to the demise of the inland portion of the band.

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Daniel T. Eipper, George S. Young, Steven J. Greybush, Seth Saslo, Todd D. Sikora, and Richard D. Clark

Abstract

Predicting the inland penetration of lake-effect long-lake-axis-parallel (LLAP) snowbands is crucial to public safety because LLAP bands can produce hazardous weather well downwind of the parent lake. Accordingly, hypotheses for the variation in inland penetration of LLAP-band radar echoes (InPen) are formulated and tested. The hypothesis testing includes an examination of statistical relationships between environmental variables and InPen for 34 snapshots of LLAP bands observed during the Ontario Winter Lake-effect Systems (OWLeS) field campaign. Several previously proposed predictors of LLAP-band formation or InPen demonstrate weak correlations with InPen during OWLeS. A notable exception is convective boundary layer (CBL) depth, which is strongly correlated with InPen. In addition to CBL depth, InPen is strongly correlated with cold-air advection in the upper portion of the CBL, suggesting that boundary layer destabilization produced by vertically differential cold-air advection may be an important inland power source for preexisting LLAP bands. This power production is quantified through atmospheric energetics and the resulting variable, differential thermal advection power (DTAP), yields reasonably skillful predictions of InPen. Nevertheless, an InPen model developed using DTAP is outperformed by an empirical model combining CBL depth and potential temperature advection in the upper portion of the CBL. This two-variable model explains 76% of the observed InPen variance when tested on independent data. Finally, implications for operational forecasting of InPen are discussed.

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