How Do Forecasters Utilize Output from a Convection-Permitting Ensemble Forecast System? Case Study of a High-Impact Precipitation Event

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015
Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings
Clark Evans, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI; and D. F. Van Dyke III and T. Lericos

Handout (12.5 MB)

The proliferation of ensemble forecast system output in recent years motivates this investigation into how operational forecasters utilize convection-permitting ensemble forecast system guidance in the forecast preparation process. A sixteen-member, convection-permitting ensemble forecast of the high-impact heavy precipitation across north Florida and southwest Georgia resulting from Tropical Storm Fay (2008) is conducted and evaluated. The ensemble provides a skillful, albeit underdispersive and bimodal, forecast at all precipitation thresholds considered.

A forecasting exercise is conducted to evaluate how forecasters utilize the ensemble forecast system guidance. Forecasters made two storm-total accumulated precipitation forecasts: one before and one after evaluating the ensemble guidance. Concurrently, forecasters were presented with questionnaires designed to gauge their thought processes in preparing each of their forecasts. Exercise participants felt that the high-resolution ensemble guidance added value and confidence to their forecasts, although it did not meaningfully reduce forecast uncertainty. Incorporation of the ensemble guidance into the forecast preparation process resulted in a modest mean improvement in forecast skill, with each forecast found to be skillful at all accumulated precipitation thresholds.

Forecasters primarily utilized the ensemble guidance to identify a “most likely” forecast outcome from disparate deterministic guidance solutions and to help quantify the uncertainty associated with the forecast. Forecasters preferred ensemble guidance that enabled them to quickly understand the range of solutions provided by the ensemble, particularly over the entirety of the domain. Forecasters were generally aware of the diversity of solutions provided by the ensemble guidance; however, only a select few actively interrogated this information when revising their forecasts and each did so in different ways. Implications of the research findings to both “research to operations” and “operations to research” activities, particularly with respect to effective post-processing of ensemble forecast guidance, will be discussed.