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Nonlinear Processes in Geophysics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 25, issue 4 | Copyright

Special issue: Numerical modeling, predictability and data assimilation in...

Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 25, 747-764, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 07 Nov 2018

Research article | 07 Nov 2018

Data assimilation of radar reflectivity volumes in a LETKF scheme

Thomas Gastaldo1,2, Virginia Poli1, Chiara Marsigli1,a, Pier Paolo Alberoni1, and Tiziana Paccagnella1 Thomas Gastaldo et al.
  • 1Arpae Emilia-Romagna Hydro-Meteo-Climate Service, Bologna, Italy
  • 2Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy
  • anow at: Deutscher Wetterdienst, Offenbach, Germany

Abstract. Quantitative precipitation forecast (QPF) is still a challenge for numerical weather prediction (NWP), despite the continuous improvement of models and data assimilation systems. In this regard, the assimilation of radar reflectivity volumes should be beneficial, since the accuracy of analysis is the element that most affects short-term QPFs. Up to now, few attempts have been made to assimilate these observations in an operational set-up, due to the large amount of computational resources needed and due to several open issues, like the rise of imbalances in the analyses and the estimation of the observational error. In this work, we evaluate the impact of the assimilation of radar reflectivity volumes employing a local ensemble transform Kalman filter (LETKF), implemented for the convection-permitting model of the COnsortium for Small-scale MOdelling (COSMO). A 4-day test case on February 2017 is considered and the verification of QPFs is performed using the fractions skill score (FSS) and the SAL technique, an object-based method which allows one to decompose the error in precipitation fields in terms of structure (S), amplitude (A) and location (L). Results obtained assimilating both conventional data and radar reflectivity volumes are compared to those of the operational system of the Hydro-Meteo-Climate Service of the Emilia-Romagna Region (Arpae-SIMC), in which only conventional observations are employed and latent heat nudging (LHN) is applied using surface rainfall intensity (SRI) estimated from the Italian radar network data. The impact of assimilating reflectivity volumes using LETKF in combination or not with LHN is assessed. Furthermore, some sensitivity tests are performed to evaluate the effects of the length of the assimilation window and of the reflectivity observational error (roe). Moreover, balance issues are assessed in terms of kinetic energy spectra and providing some examples of how these affect prognostic fields. Results show that the assimilation of reflectivity volumes has a positive impact on QPF accuracy in the first few hours of forecast, both when it is combined with LHN or not. The improvement is further slightly enhanced when only observations collected close to the analysis time are assimilated, while the shortening of cycle length worsens QPF accuracy. Finally, the employment of too small a value of roe introduces imbalances into the analyses, resulting in a severe degradation of forecast accuracy, especially when very short assimilation cycles are used.

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Short summary
Accuracy of numerical weather prediction forecasts is strongly related to the quality of initial conditions employed. To improve them, it seems advantageous to use radar reflectivity observations because of their high spatial and temporal resolution. This is tested in a high-resolution model whose domain covers Italy. Results show that the employment of reflectivity observations improves precipitation forecast accuracy, but the positive impact is lost after a few hours of forecast.
Accuracy of numerical weather prediction forecasts is strongly related to the quality of initial...