An observing system experiment with the West Coast picket fence

P. A. Hirschberg, P. C. Shafran, R. L. Elsberry, E. A. Ritchie

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5 Citations (Scopus)


Analyses and forecasts from a modern data assimilation and modeling system are used to evaluate the impact of a special rawinsonde dataset of 3-h soundings at seven sites interspersed with the seven regular sites along the West Coast (to form a so-called picket fence to intercept all transiting circulations) plus special 6-h rawinsondes over the National Weather Service Western Region. Whereas four intensive observing periods (IOPs) are available, only two representative IOPs (IOP-3 and IOP-4) are described here. The special observations collected during each 12-h cycle are analyzed with the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Eta Data Assimilation System in a cold start from the NCEP-National Center for Atmospheric Research reanalyses as the initial condition. Forecasts up to 48 h with and without the special picket fence observations are generated by the 32-km horizontal resolution Eta Model with 45 vertical levels. The picket fence observations had little impact in some cases with smooth environmental flow. In other cases, relatively large initial increments were introduced offshore of the picket fence observations. However, these increments usually damped as they translated downstream. During IOP-3, the increments amplified east of the Rocky Mountains after only 24 h. Even though initially small, the increments in IOP-4 grew rapidly to 500-mb height increments ∼20-25 m with accompanying meridional wind increments of 5-8 m s-1 that contributed to maxima in shear vorticity. Many of the downstream amplifying circulations had associated precipitation increments ∼6 mm (6 h)-1 between the control and experimental forecasts. The equitable threat scores against the cooperative station set for the first 24-h forecasts during IOP-3 had higher values at the 0.50- and 0.75-in-thresholds for the picket fence dataset. However, the overall four-IOP equitable threat scores were similar. Although the classical synoptic case was not achieved during the picket fence, these model forecasts suggest that such observations around the coast of the United States would impact the downstream forecasts when added in dynamically unstable regions. An ultimate picket fence of continuous remotely observing systems should be studied further.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2585-2599
Number of pages15
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2001
Externally publishedYes

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