Original paper

Missing North Atlantic cyclonic precipitation in ECMWF numerical weather prediction and ERA-40 data detected through the satellite climatology HOAPS II

Klepp, Christian-Philipp; Bakan, Stephan; Grassl, Hartmut

Meteorologische Zeitschrift Vol. 14 No. 6 (2005), p. 809 - 821

published: Dec 19, 2005

DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2005/0088

BibTeX file

ArtNo. ESP025011406014, Price: 29.00 €

Download preview PDF Buy as PDF


Intense precipitation associated with wintertime North Atlantic cyclones occurs not only in connection with frontal zones but also, and often mainly, embedded in strong cold air outbreaks to the west of mature cold fronts. Coherent structures of cloud clusters organized in mesoscale postfrontal low-pressure systems are frequently found in satellite data. Such postfrontal lows (PFL) can develop into severe weather events within few hours and can even reach Europe causing intense convective rainfall and gale force winds. Despite predicting the major storm systems numerical weather prediction (NWP) additionally needs to account for PFLs due to their frequent occurrence connected with high impact weather. But while the major cyclone systems are mostly well predicted, the forecast of PFLs remains poor. Using North Atlantic weather observations from the 1997 Fronts and Atlantic Storm Track Experiment (FASTEX) along with the standard voluntary observing ship (VOS) data led to a high quality validation data set for this usually data sparse region. For individual case studies of FASTEX cyclones with mesoscale PFLs investigations were carried out using the well calibrated precipitation estimates from HOAPS (Hamburg Ocean Atmosphere Parameters and fluxes from satellite data) compared to the NWP model output of the ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts). Preceding studies showed that the HOAPS precipitation structure and intensities are in good agreement with the VOS observations for all observed precipitation types within the cyclones, including PFLs. To assure that the results found in the 1997 data are still valid in the more recent ECMWF model system, a PFL rainfall comparison is carried out using HOAPS and ERA-40 (ECMWF Re-Analysis) data for the winter of 2001 and 2002. The results indicate that the ECMWF model is mostly well reproducing precipitation structures and intensities associated with frontal systems as observed in the VOS and HOAPS data, whereas PFL precipitation is mostly missing. Further investigations within the regions of PFL point out that the VOS observed surface pressure is systematically lower than reproduced in the models. This leads to the conclusion that the missing PFL precipitation in ECMWF may be primarily due to the absence of the corresponding mesoscale low-pressure system.