Impacts of initial estimate and observation availability on convective-scale data assimilation with an ensemble Kalman filter

Fuqing Zhang, Chris Snyder, Juanzhen Sun

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The ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF) uses an ensemble of short-range forecasts to estimate the flow-dependent background error covariances required in data assimilation. The feasibility of the EnKF for convective-scale data assimilation has been previously demonstrated in perfect-model experiments using simulated observations of radial velocity from a supercell storm. The present study further explores the potential and behavior of the EnKF at convective scales by considering more realistic initial analyses and variations in the availability and quality of the radar observations. Assimilation of simulated radial-velocity observations every 5 min where there is significant reflectivity using 20 ensemble members proves to be successful in most realistic observational scenarios for simulated supercell thunderstorms, although the same degree of success may not be readily expected with real observations and an imperfect model, at least with the present EnKF implementation. Even though the filter converges toward the truth simulation faster from a better initial estimate, an experiment with the initial estimate of the supercell displaced by 10 km still yields an accurate estimate of the storm for both observed and unobserved variables within 40 min. Similarly, radial-velocity observations below 2 km are certainly beneficial to capturing the storm (especially the detailed cold pool structure), but in their absence the assimilation scheme can still achieve a comparably accurate estimate of the state of the storm given a slightly longer assimilation period. An experiment with radar observations only above 4 km fails to assimilate the storm properly, but, with the addition of a hypothetical surface mesonet taking wind and temperature observations, the EnKF can again provide a good estimate of the storm. The supercell can also be successfully assimilated in the case of radar observations only below 4 km (such as those from the ground-based mobile radars). More frequent observations can help the storm assimilation initially, but the benefit diminishes after half an hour. Results presented here indicate that the vertical resolution and the uncertainty of observations, for the typical range of most of the observational radars, would have little impact on the overall performance of the EnKF in assimilating the storm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1238-1253
Number of pages16
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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