85th AMS Annual Meeting

Monday, 10 January 2005
Operationally useful parameters viewed in three-dimensions during winter storms and severe thunderstorm outbreaks
Daniel D. Nietfeld, NOAA/NWSFO, Valley, NE; and K. Faltin and A. Prenzlow
Three-dimensional data sets, and three-dimensional display software applications, are becoming increasingly available to operational meteorologists. There often can be a significant difference in paradigms for viewing data in three-dimensions as opposed to two-dimensions. One of the challenges that operational meteorologists face when utilizing three-dimensional displays is choosing which parameters to view in three dimensions and which to display in two dimensions. Some parameters are more suited for three dimensional displays, but because of their complexity, some parameters are more suited for two-dimensional display. Furthermore, there can be utility in displaying combinations of parameters, or specifying a color scheme for one parameter that is a function of another parameter.

Five significant weather events were evaluated using the Display Three Dimension (D3D) software application, available from the NOAA Forecast System Lab. The software was used to display eta model gridded data. These events consisted of two major winter storms, and three severe weather outbreaks. All events affected the central plains and Midwest sections of the United States. For each event, various parameters were evaluated using the D3D software. Approximately 40 individual parameters were evaluated for their usefulness, and numerous combinations of those parameters were also evaluated. Those parameters and combination of parameters which showed the most utility were identified as such. Subsets of parameters were identified for the cool-season winter storms and for the warm-season severe thunderstorm patterns. In addition, other three-dimensional tools were evaluated, including parcel trajectories and unique trajectory color schemes.

Several parameters were identified as being optimal for three-dimensional display. The most useful displays included specifying a color scheme for a parameter that was a function of another parameter. For example, the display of omega (vertical motion) as a function of temperature provided a quick display of those ingredients necessary for dendritic snowflake formation (i.e., vertical motion in a favorable temperature environment). As another example, in a warm season convective environment it was found that three-dimensional displays of equivalent potential vorticity showed a volumetric view of pockets of instability.

The goal of this paper was to educate operational meteorologists in how to most efficiently and effectively use three-dimensional data sets and three-dimensional display applications.

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