Ensemble sensitivity analysis for mesoscale forecasts of dryline convection initiation

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Two cases of dryline convection initiation (CI) over north Texas have been simulated (3 April 2012 and 15 May 2013) from a 50-member WRF-DART ensemble adjustment Kalman filter (EAKF) ensemble. In this study, ensemble sensitivity analysis (ESA) is applied to a convective forecast metric, maximum composite reflectivity (referred to as the response function), as a simple proxy for CI to analyze dynamic mesoscale sensitivities at the surface and aloft. Analysis reveals positional and magnitude sensitivities related to the strength and placement of important dynamic features. Convection initiation is sensitive to the evolving temperature and dewpoint fields upstream of the forecast response region in the near-CI time frame (0-12 h), prior to initiation. The sensitivity to thermodynamics is also manifest in the magnitude of dewpoint gradients along the dryline that triggers the convection. ESA additionally highlights the importance of antecedent precipitation and cold pool generation that modifies the pre-CI environment. Aloft, sensitivity of CI to a weak short-wave trough and capping inversion-level temperature is coherent, consistent, and traceable through the entire forecast period. Notwithstanding the (often) non-Gaussian distribution of ensemble member forecasts of convection, which violate the underpinnings of ESA theory, ESA is demonstrated to sufficiently identify regions that influence dryline CI. These results indicate an application of ESA for severe storm forecasting at operational centers and forecast offices as well as other mesoscale forecasting applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4161-4182
Number of pages22
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2016


  • Data assimilation
  • Ensembles
  • Forecasting techniques
  • Mesoscale forecasting


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