85 Verification of Ensemble Forecasts for the New York City Operations Support Tool

Tuesday, 8 January 2013
Exhibit Hall 3 (Austin Convention Center)
Gerald N. Day, Riverside Technology, inc., Fort Collins, CO; and J. C. Schaake, M. Thiemann, S. Draijer, and L. Wang

The New York City water supply system operated by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) serves nine million people. It covers 2,000 square miles of portions of the Catskill, Delaware, and Croton watersheds, and it includes nineteen reservoirs and three controlled lakes. DEP is developing an Operations Support Tool (OST) to support its water supply operations and planning activities. OST includes historical and real-time data, a model of the water supply system complete with operating rules, and lake water quality models developed to evaluate alternatives for managing turbidity in the New York City Catskill reservoirs. OST will enable DEP to manage turbidity in its unfiltered system while satisfying its primary objective of meeting the City's water supply needs, in addition to considering secondary objectives of maintaining ecological flows, supporting fishery and recreation releases, and mitigating downstream flood peaks.

The current version of OST relies on statistical forecasts of flows in the system based on recent observed flows. To improve short-term decision making, plans are being made to transition to National Weather Service (NWS) ensemble forecasts based on hydrologic models that account for short-term weather forecast skill, longer-term climate information, as well as the hydrologic state of the watersheds and recent observed flows.

To ensure that the ensemble forecasts are unbiased and that the ensemble spread reflects the actual uncertainty of the forecasts, a statistical model has been developed to post-process the NWS ensemble forecasts to account for hydrologic model error as well as any inherent bias and uncertainty in initial model states, meteorological data and forecasts. The post-processor is designed to produce adjusted ensemble forecasts that are consistent with the DEP historical flow sequences that were used to develop the system operating rules. A set of historical hindcasts that is representative of the real-time ensemble forecasts is needed to verify that the post-processed forecasts are unbiased, statistically reliable, and preserve the skill inherent in the “raw” NWS ensemble forecasts.

A verification procedure and set of metrics will be presented that provide an objective assessment of ensemble forecasts. The procedure will be applied to both raw ensemble hindcasts and to post-processed ensemble hindcasts. The verification metrics will be used to validate proper functioning of the post-processor and to provide a benchmark for comparison of different types of forecasts. For example, current NWS ensemble forecasts are based on climatology, using each historical year to generate a forecast trace. The NWS Hydrologic Ensemble Forecast System (HEFS) under development will utilize output from both the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Global Ensemble Forecast System (GEFS) and the Climate Forecast System (CFS). Incorporating short-term meteorological forecasts and longer-term climate forecast information should provide sharper, more accurate forecasts. Hindcasts from HEFS will enable New York City to generate verification results to validate the new forecasts and further fine-tune system operating rules. Project verification results will be presented for different watersheds across a range of seasons, lead times, and flow levels to assess the quality of the current ensemble forecasts.

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