Sensitivity of Hail Precipitation to Ensembles of Uncertainties of Representative Initial Environmental Conditions From ECMWF

Xiaofei Li, Fuqing Zhang, Qinghong Zhang, Matthew R. Kumjian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The sensitivity of hail precipitation from an idealized hailstorm to realistic environmental uncertainties was investigated through ensembles of cloud-resolving simulations using the Weather Research and Forecasting model, with initial condition perturbations derived from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF) operational ensemble. The analyses revealed that hail precipitation rate was very sensitive to small initial environmental perturbations, particularly in thermodynamic variables. The hail precipitation rate was significantly positively correlated with perturbations to the initial potential temperature below 750 hPa and to water vapor mixing ratio above 750 hPa. These small initial perturbations led to subsequent substantial differences in hail precipitation as well as in characteristics of the parent storm (e.g., updraft velocity, diabatic heating, and microphysical processes), all of which play a key role in hail growth. The larger sensitivity of hail precipitation to thermodynamic rather than kinematic environmental initial condition perturbations persisted even when the magnitude of the perturbations was reduced to 10% of the realistic uncertainties derived from the ECMWF ensemble. In the ensemble with reduced-amplitude initial perturbations, there was still a moderately strong positive correlation between hail precipitation rate and the initial perturbations of the thermodynamic variables. However, these sensitivities were nonlinear, suggesting that the intrinsic predictability of hail precipitation rate may be limited, even when environmental uncertainties are reduced to 10%, 1.0 × 10−3, and 1.0 × 10−5 of the currently realistic magnitude of initial condition uncertainty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6929-6948
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 16 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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