Convection-Allowing and Convection-Parameterizing Ensemble Forecasts of a Mesoscale Convective Vortex and Associated Severe Weather Environment
Weather and forecasting
An analysis of a regional severe weather outbreak that was related to a mesoscale convective vortex (MCV) is performed. The MCV-spawning mesoscale convection system (MCS) formed in northwest Kansas along the southern periphery of a large cutoff 500-hPa low centered over western South Dakota. As the MCS propagated into eastern Kansas during the early morning of 1 June 2007, an MCV that became evident from multiple data sources [e.g., Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) network,
... R-88D) network, visible satellite imagery, wind-profiler data, Rapid Update Cycle 1-hourly analyses] tracked through northwest Missouri and central Iowa and manifested itself as a well-defined midlevel short-wave trough. Downstream of the MCV in southeast Iowa and northwest Illinois, southwesterly 500-hPa winds increased to around 25 m s 21 over an area with southeasterly surface winds and 500-1500 J kg 21 of surface-based convective available potential energy (CAPE), creating a favorable environment for severe weather. In the favorable region, multiple tornadoes occurred, including one rated as a category 3 storm on the enhanced Fujita scale (EF3) that caused considerable damage. In the analysis, emphasis is placed on the role of the MCV in leading to a favorable environment for severe weather. In addition, convection-allowing forecasts of the MCV and associated environmental conditions from the 10-member Storm-Scale Ensemble Forecast (SSEF) system produced for the 2007 NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed Spring Experiment are compared to those from a similarly configured, but coarser, 30-member convection-parameterizing ensemble. It was found that forecasts of the MCV track and associated environmental conditions (e.g., midlevel winds, low-level wind shear, and instability) were much better in the convection-allowing ensemble. Errors in the MCV track from convection-parameterizing members likely resulted from westward displacement errors in the incipient MCS. Furthermore, poor depiction of MCV structure and maintenance in convection-parameterizing members, which was diagnosed through a vorticity budget analysis, likely led to the relatively poor forecasts of the associated environmental conditions. The results appear to be very encouraging for convection-allowing ensembles, especially when environmental conditions lead to a high degree of predictability for MCSs, which appeared to be the case for this particular event.