Assimilation of cloud-top temperature and radar observations of an idealized splitting supercell using an observing system simulation experiment

Christopher A. Kerr, David J. Stensrud, Xuguang Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series will provide cloud-top observations on the convective scale at roughly the same frequency as Doppler radar observations. To evaluate the potential value of cloud-top temperature observations for data assimilation, an imperfect-model observing system simulation experiment is used. Synthetic cloud-top temperature observations from an idealized splitting supercell created using the Weather Research and Forecasting Model are assimilated along with synthetic radar reflectivity and radial velocity using an ensemble Kalman filter. Observations are assimilated every 5 min for 2.5 h with additive noise used to maintain ensemble spread. Four experiments are conducted to explore the relative value of cloud-top temperature and radar observations. One experiment only assimilates satellite data, another only assimilates radar data, and two more experiments assimilate both radar and satellite observations, but with the observation types assimilated in different order. Results show a rather weak correlation between cloud-top temperature and horizontal winds, whereas larger correlations are found between cloud-top temperature and microphysics variables. However, the assimilation of cloud-top temperature data alone produces a supercell storm in the ensemble, although the resulting ensemble has much larger spread compared to the ensembles of radar inclusive experiments. The addition of radar observations greatly improves the storm structure and reduces the overprediction of storm extent. Results further show that assimilating cloud-top temperature observations in addition to radar data does not lead to an improved forecast. However, assimilating cloud-top temperature can produce reasonable forecasts for areas lacking radar coverage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1018-1034
Number of pages17
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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