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NWP and Radar Extrapolation: Comparisons and Explanation of Errors

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  • 1 National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

This paper examines nowcasts of precipitation from the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRRv2) model from the summer of 2017 along the Colorado Front Range. It was found that model nowcasts (2 h or less) of precipitation amount were less skillful than extrapolation of the KFTG WSR-88-D data at a spatial scale of 120 km. It was also found that local-scale (mesoscale) influences on rainfall intensity and amount have a much greater impact on rainfall intensity than large-scale (synoptic) influences. Thus, large-scale trends are not useful for modifying extrapolation nowcasts on the local scale. Errors in the HRRR nowcasts are attributed to an inability of the model and data assimilation to resolve convergence along outflow boundaries and other terrain-influenced mesogamma-scale flows that contribute to storm formation and evolution. While the HRRRv2 1-h nowcasts were strongly correlated with observed precipitation events, the nowcast precipitation amounts were in error by more than a factor of 2 about 50% of the time, with half of the cases being overestimates and half being underestimates. A large fraction of the HRRRv2 overestimates were associated with stratiform rain events. It is speculated that this was a result of misinterpretation of the radar bright band as more intense precipitation aloft by the data assimilation scheme. A large fraction of the HRRRv2 underestimates occurred when the data assimilation and model were unable to fully resolve the low-level convergence along small-scale, narrow boundaries that led to new storm initiation and/or storm growth.

© 2020 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: James W. Wilson, jwilson@ucar.edu; James Pinto, Pinto@ucar.edu

Abstract

This paper examines nowcasts of precipitation from the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRRv2) model from the summer of 2017 along the Colorado Front Range. It was found that model nowcasts (2 h or less) of precipitation amount were less skillful than extrapolation of the KFTG WSR-88-D data at a spatial scale of 120 km. It was also found that local-scale (mesoscale) influences on rainfall intensity and amount have a much greater impact on rainfall intensity than large-scale (synoptic) influences. Thus, large-scale trends are not useful for modifying extrapolation nowcasts on the local scale. Errors in the HRRR nowcasts are attributed to an inability of the model and data assimilation to resolve convergence along outflow boundaries and other terrain-influenced mesogamma-scale flows that contribute to storm formation and evolution. While the HRRRv2 1-h nowcasts were strongly correlated with observed precipitation events, the nowcast precipitation amounts were in error by more than a factor of 2 about 50% of the time, with half of the cases being overestimates and half being underestimates. A large fraction of the HRRRv2 overestimates were associated with stratiform rain events. It is speculated that this was a result of misinterpretation of the radar bright band as more intense precipitation aloft by the data assimilation scheme. A large fraction of the HRRRv2 underestimates occurred when the data assimilation and model were unable to fully resolve the low-level convergence along small-scale, narrow boundaries that led to new storm initiation and/or storm growth.

© 2020 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: James W. Wilson, jwilson@ucar.edu; James Pinto, Pinto@ucar.edu
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