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WRF simulations of a rare springtime bow echo near the Great Salt Lake

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Thursday, 6 November 2014
Capitol Ballroom AB (Madison Concourse Hotel)
Lin Zhao, Utah State University, Logan, UT; and S. Y. Wang, J. Jin, and A. Clark

The semiarid climate and rugged terrain in the interior West of the United States do not favor the development of bow echoes a type of convective storm associated with intense, damaging winds. However, on 21 April 2011, a bow echo associated with a fast-moving midtropospheric perturbation formed across the Great Salt Lake (GSL) in Utah, producing damaging winds along its path. Intrigued by the rarity of this bow echo and the inability of the North American Mesoscale model (NAM) to forecast it, this event was studied by using available observations and conducted simulations with the Advanced Research Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model. Sensitivity to the microphysics schemes, horizontal grid spacing, intensity of moisture content, and a physical lake model in the WRF model were examined. It was found that (a) reduction in grid spacing from 12 and 4 km to 1 km along with improved depiction of low-level moisture substantially improved the bow echo simulation, (b) the presence of GSL did not impact bow echo development, and (c) the WRF model appeared to inherit a phase error in the passage of the midtropospheric perturbation from the NAM initial and lateral boundary conditions. The phase error resulted in a 1-2 hour delay in the bow echo passage. These results highlight the difficulties in simulating such a bow echo event, and suggest similar challenges future faced by subsequent regional climate downscaling studies on future extreme weather in the Western United States. Ref.: Zhao, L., Wang, S.-Y., J. Jin and A. J. Clark, 2014: Weather Research and Forecasting model simulations of a rare springtime bow echo near the Great Salt Lake. Meteorological Applications (Royal Met. Soc.), DOI: 10.1002/met.1455.