1 Resolution dependence of initiation and upscale growth of deep convection in convection-allowing forecasts of the 31 May--1 June 2013 supercell and MCS

Monday, 3 August 2015
Back Bay Ballroom (Sheraton Boston )
Russ S. Schumacher, CSU, Ft. Collins, CO

Handout (8.5 MB)

On 31 May 2013, a supercell thunderstorm initiated in west-central Oklahoma and produced a deadly tornado. This convection then grew upscale, with a nearly stationary line developing early on 1 June that produced very heavy rainfall and caused deadly flash flooding in the Oklahoma City area. Real-time convection-allowing (dx=4 km) model forecasts used during the Mesoscale Predictability Experiment (MPEX) provided accurate guidance regarding the timing, location, and evolution of convection on 31 May--1 June. However, attempts to simulate this event at higher resolution degraded the forecast, with the primary supercell failing to initiate and the evolution of the overnight MCS not resembling the observed system. Experiments to test the dependence of forecasts of this event on model resolution show that with grid spacing smaller than 4 km, mixing along the dryline in northwest Texas was more vigorous, causing low-level dry air to move more quickly eastward into Oklahoma. This drying prevented the supercell from initiating near the "triple point" where it was observed. Then, the lack of supercellular convection and its associated cold pool altered the evolution of subsequent convection. Whereas in observations and the 4-km forecast, a nearly stationary MCS developed parallel to, but displaced from, the supercell's cold pool, the higher-resolution simulations instead had a faster-moving squall line that produced less rainfall. Although the degradation of convective forecasts at higher resolution is probably unusual, these findings demonstrate that the ways in which numerical models treat boundary-layer processes at different grid spacings can, in some cases, have profound influences on predictions of high-impact weather.
- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner