WRF Precipitation Performance and Predictability for Systematically Varied Parameterizations over Complex Terrain

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  • 1 The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • 2 BC Hydro, Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • 3 The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Abstract

Physics parameterizations in the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model are systematically varied to investigate precipitation forecast performance over the complex terrain of southwest British Columbia (BC). Comparing a full year of modelling data from over 100 WRF configurations to station observations reveals sensitivities of precipitation intensity, season, location, grid resolution, and accumulation window. The choice of cumulus and microphysics parameterizations is most important. The WSM5 microphysics scheme yields competitive verification scores when compared to more sophisticated and computationally expensive parameterizations. Although the scale-aware Grell-Freitas cumulus parameterization performs better for summertime convective precipitation, the conventional Kain-Fritsch parameterization better simulates wintertime frontal precipitation, which contributes to the majority of the annual precipitation in southwest BC. Finer grid spacings have lower relative biases and a more realistic spread in precipitation intensity distribution, yet higher relative standard deviations of their errors — they produce finer spatial differences and local extrema. Finer resolutions produce the best fraction of correct-to-incorrect forecasts across all precipitation intensities, whereas the coarser 27-km domain yields the highest hit rates and equitable threat scores. Verification metrics improve greatly with longer accumulation windows — hourly precipitation values are prone to double-penalty issues, while longer accumulation windows compensate for timing errors but lose information about short-term precipitation intensities. This study provides insights regarding WRF precipitation performance in complex terrain across a wide variety of configurations, using metrics important to a range of end users.

Denotes content that is immediately available upon publication as open access.

Corresponding author: Julia Jeworrek, jjeworrek@eoas.ubc.ca

Abstract

Physics parameterizations in the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model are systematically varied to investigate precipitation forecast performance over the complex terrain of southwest British Columbia (BC). Comparing a full year of modelling data from over 100 WRF configurations to station observations reveals sensitivities of precipitation intensity, season, location, grid resolution, and accumulation window. The choice of cumulus and microphysics parameterizations is most important. The WSM5 microphysics scheme yields competitive verification scores when compared to more sophisticated and computationally expensive parameterizations. Although the scale-aware Grell-Freitas cumulus parameterization performs better for summertime convective precipitation, the conventional Kain-Fritsch parameterization better simulates wintertime frontal precipitation, which contributes to the majority of the annual precipitation in southwest BC. Finer grid spacings have lower relative biases and a more realistic spread in precipitation intensity distribution, yet higher relative standard deviations of their errors — they produce finer spatial differences and local extrema. Finer resolutions produce the best fraction of correct-to-incorrect forecasts across all precipitation intensities, whereas the coarser 27-km domain yields the highest hit rates and equitable threat scores. Verification metrics improve greatly with longer accumulation windows — hourly precipitation values are prone to double-penalty issues, while longer accumulation windows compensate for timing errors but lose information about short-term precipitation intensities. This study provides insights regarding WRF precipitation performance in complex terrain across a wide variety of configurations, using metrics important to a range of end users.

Denotes content that is immediately available upon publication as open access.

Corresponding author: Julia Jeworrek, jjeworrek@eoas.ubc.ca
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