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Tobias Selz

Abstract

Global model simulations together with a stochastic convection scheme are used to assess the intrinsic limit of predictability that originates from convection up to planetary scales. The stochastic convection scheme has been shown to introduce an appropriate amount of variability onto the model grid without the need to resolve the convection explicitly. This largely reduces computational costs and enables a set of 12 cases equally distributed over 1 year with five ensemble members for each case, generated by the stochastic convection scheme. As a metric, difference kinetic energy at 300 hPa over the midlatitudes, both north and south, is used. With this metric the intrinsic limit is estimated to be about 17 days when a threshold of 80% of the saturation level is applied. The error level at 3.5 days roughly compares to the initial-condition uncertainty of the current ECMWF data assimilation system, which suggests a potential improvement of 3.5 forecast days through perfecting the initial conditions. Error-growth experiments that use a deterministic convection scheme show smaller errors of about half the size at early forecast times and an estimate of intrinsic predictability that is about 10% longer, confirming the overconfidence of deterministic convection schemes.

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Tobias Selz and George C. Craig

Abstract

The growth of small-amplitude, spatially uncorrelated perturbations has been studied in a weather forecast of a 4-day period in the summer of 2007, using a large domain covering Europe and the eastern Atlantic and with explicitly resolved deep convection. The error growth follows the three-stage conceptual model of Zhang et al., with rapid initial growth (e-folding time about 0.5 h) on all scales, relaxing over about 20 h to a slow growth of the large-scale perturbations (e-folding time 12 h). The initial growth was confined to precipitating regions, with a faster growth rate where conditional instability was large. Growth in these regions saturated within 3–10 h, continuing for the longest where the precipitation rate was large. While the initial growth was mainly in the divergent part of the flow, the eventual slow growth on large scales was more in the rotational component.

Spectral decomposition of the disturbance energy showed that the rapid growth in precipitating regions projected onto all Fourier components; however, the amplitude at saturation was too small to initiate the subsequent large-scale growth. Visualization of the disturbance energy showed it to expand outward from the precipitating regions at a speed corresponding to a deep tropospheric gravity wave. These results suggest a physical picture of error growth with a rapidly growing disturbance to the vertical mass transport in precipitating regions that spreads to the radius of deformation while undergoing geostrophic adjustment, eventually creating a balanced perturbation that continues to grow through baroclinic instability.

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Stephan Rasp, Tobias Selz, and George C. Craig

Abstract

The statistical theory of convective variability developed by Craig and Cohen in 2006 has provided a promising foundation for the design of stochastic parameterizations. The simplifying assumptions of this theory, however, were made with tropical equilibrium convection in mind. This study investigates the predictions of the statistical theory in real-weather case studies of nonequilibrium summertime convection over land. For this purpose, a convection-permitting ensemble is used in which all members share the same large-scale weather conditions but the convection is displaced using stochastic boundary layer perturbations. The results show that the standard deviation of the domain-integrated mass flux is proportional to the square root of its mean over a wide range of scales. This confirms the general applicability and scale adaptivity of the Craig and Cohen theory for complex weather. However, clouds tend to cluster on scales of around 100 km, particularly in the morning and evening. This strongly impacts the theoretical predictions of the variability, which does not include clustering. Furthermore, the mass flux per cloud closely follows an exponential distribution if all clouds are considered together and if overlapping cloud objects are separated. The nonseparated cloud mass flux distribution resembles a power law. These findings support the use of the theory for stochastic parameterizations but also highlight areas for improvement.

Open access
Tobias Selz, Lucas Fischer, and George C. Craig

Abstract

The spatial scale dependence of midlatitude water vapor variability in the high-resolution limited-area model COSMO is evaluated using diagnostics of scaling behavior. Past analysis of airborne lidar measurements showed that structure function scaling exponents depend on the corresponding airmass characteristics, and that a classification of the troposphere into convective and nonconvective layers led to significantly different power-law behaviors for each of these two regimes. In particular, scaling properties in the convective air mass were characterized by rough and highly intermittent data series, whereas the nonconvective regime was dominated by smoother structures with weaker small-scale variability. This study finds similar results in a model simulation with an even more pronounced distinction between the two air masses. Quantitative scaling diagnostics agree well with measurements in the nonconvective air mass, whereas in the convective air mass the simulation shows a much higher intermittency. Sensitivity analyses were performed using the model data to assess the impact of limitations of the observational dataset, which indicate that analyses of lidar data most likely underestimated the intermittency in convective air masses due to the small samples from single flight tracks, which led to a bias when data with poor fits were rejected. Though the quantitative estimation of intermittency remains uncertain for convective air masses, the ability of the model to capture the dominant weather regime dependence of water vapor scaling properties is encouraging.

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Tobias Selz, Lotte Bierdel, and George C. Craig

Abstract

Research on the mesoscale kinetic energy spectrum over the past few decades has focused on finding a dynamical mechanism that gives rise to a universal spectral slope. Here we investigate the variability of the spectrum using 3 years of kilometer-resolution analyses from COSMO configured for Germany (COSMO-DE). It is shown that the mesoscale kinetic energy spectrum is highly variable in time but that a minimum in variability is found on scales around 100 km. The high variability found on the small-scale end of the spectrum (around 10 km) is positively correlated with the precipitation rate where convection is a strong source of variance. On the other hand, variability on the large-scale end (around 1000 km) is correlated with the potential vorticity, as expected for geostrophically balanced flows. Accordingly, precipitation at small scales is more highly correlated with divergent kinetic energy, and potential vorticity at large scales is more highly correlated with rotational kinetic energy. The presented findings suggest that the spectral slope and amplitude on the mesoscale range are governed by an ever-changing combination of the upscale and downscale impacts of these large- and small-scale dynamical processes rather than by a universal, intrinsically mesoscale dynamical mechanism.

Open access
Stephan Rasp, Tobias Selz, and George C. Craig

Abstract

Air parcel ascent in midlatitude cyclones driven by latent heat release has been investigated using convection-permitting simulations together with an online trajectory calculation scheme. Three cyclones were simulated to represent different ascent regimes: one continental summer case, which developed strong convection organized along a cold front; one marine winter case representing a slantwise ascending warm conveyor belt; and one autumn case, which contains both ascent types as well as mesoscale convective systems. Distributions of ascent times differ significantly in mean and shape between the convective summertime case and the synoptic wintertime case, with the mean ascent time being one order of magnitude larger for the latter. For the autumn case the distribution is a superposition of both ascent types, which could be separated spatially and temporally in the simulation. In the slowly ascending airstreams a significant portion of the parcels still experienced short phases of convective ascent. These are linked to line convection in the boundary layer for the wintertime case and an elevated conditionally unstable layer in the autumn case. Potential vorticity (PV) modification during ascent has also been investigated. Despite the different ascent characteristics it was found that net PV change between inflow and outflow levels is very close to zero in all cases. The spread of individual PV values, however, is increased after the ascent. This effect is more pronounced for convective trajectories.

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Marlene Baumgart, Paolo Ghinassi, Volkmar Wirth, Tobias Selz, George C. Craig, and Michael Riemer

Abstract

Two diagnostics based on potential vorticity and the envelope of Rossby waves are used to investigate upscale error growth from a dynamical perspective. The diagnostics are applied to several cases of global, real-case ensemble simulations, in which the only difference between the ensemble members lies in the random seed of the stochastic convection scheme. Based on a tendency equation for the enstrophy error, the relative importance of individual processes to enstrophy-error growth near the tropopause is quantified. After the enstrophy error is saturated on the synoptic scale, the envelope diagnostic is used to investigate error growth up to the planetary scale. The diagnostics reveal distinct stages of the error growth: in the first 12 h, error growth is dominated by differences in the convection scheme. Differences in the upper-tropospheric divergent wind then project these diabatic errors into the tropopause region (day 0.5–2). The subsequent error growth (day 2–14.5) is governed by differences in the nonlinear near-tropopause dynamics. A fourth stage of the error growth is found up to 18 days when the envelope diagnostic indicates error growth from the synoptic up to the planetary scale. Previous ideas of the multiscale nature of upscale error growth are confirmed in general. However, a novel interpretation of the governing processes is provided. The insight obtained into the dynamics of upscale error growth may help to design representations of uncertainty in operational forecast models and to identify atmospheric conditions that are intrinsically prone to large error amplification.

Open access