Predictability characteristics of landfalling cyclones along the North American West Coast

Lynn A. Mcmurdie, Brian Ancell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The predictability of North Pacific cyclones can vary widely, from highly accurate prediction of storm intensity and location to forecast position errors of hundreds of kilometers and central pressure errors of tens of hectopascals. In this study, aWeather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) ensemble Kalman filter is used to investigate predictability of landfalling cyclones on the west coast of North America over two winter seasons (2008/09 and 2009/10). Predictability is defined as the ensemble spread of cyclone central pressure at the final forecast time (24 h) where large spread means low predictability. Both ensemble spread and ensemble initial-condition sensitivity are examined for a wide variety of cyclones that occurred during the two seasons. Storms that are deepening and track from the southwest exhibit the largest ensemble initial-condition sensitivity and highest ensemble spread compared to decaying storms and storms that track from other directions. Storms that end south of 40°N, typically slow moving storms from the northwest, exhibit higher predictability regardless of whether or not they are deepening or decaying. Cyclones with large ensemble spread and low sensitivity are mature cyclones whose low predictability likely results from large initialcondition spread instead of large perturbation growth. These results highlight particular synoptic situations and cyclone characteristics that are associated with low predictability and can potentially be used to improve forecasts through improved observational coverage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-319
Number of pages19
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


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