Practical and intrinsic predictability of severe and convective weather at the mesoscales

Christopher Melhauser, Fuqing Zhang

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123 Scopus citations


This study explores both the practical and intrinsic predictability of severe convective weather at the mesoscales using convection-permitting ensemble simulations of a squall line and bow echo event during the Bow Echo and Mesoscale Convective Vortex (MCV) Experiment (BAMEX) on 9-10 June 2003. Although most ensemble members-initialized with realistic initial condition uncertainties smaller than the NCEP Global Forecast System Final Analysis (GFS FNL) using an ensemble Kalman filter-forecast broad areas of severe convection, there is a large variability of forecast performance among different members, highlighting the limit of practical predictability. In general, the best-performing members tend to have a stronger upperlevel trough and associated surface low, producing a more conducive environment for strong long-lived squall lines and bow echoes, once triggered. The divergence in development is a combination of a dislocation of the upper-level trough, surface low with corresponding marginal environmental differences between developing and nondeveloping members, and cold pool evolution by deep convection prior to squall line formation. To further explore the intrinsic predictability of the storm, a sequence of sensitivity experiments was performed with the initial condition differences decreased to nearly an order of magnitude smaller than typical analysis and observation errors. The ensemble forecast and additional sensitivity experiments demonstrate that this storm has a limited practical predictability, which may be further improved with more accurate initial conditions. However, it is possible that the true storm could be near the point of bifurcation, where predictability is intrinsically limited. The limits of both practical and intrinsic predictability highlight the need for probabilistic and ensemble forecasts for severe weather prediction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3350-3371
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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