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Advancing the Understanding and Forecasting of Mesoscale Weather in the United States Committee on Meteorological Analysis, Prediction, and Research Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources National Research Council REFERENCE COPY FOR LIBRARY USE OMY National Academy Press Washington, D.C. 1990 PROPERTY OF NRC LIBRARY Order from National Technical Information Service. Springfield, ViL 22161 Order No.
I --'M^ NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of C \ Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of dis- tinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Frank Press is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Robert M. White is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Samuel O. Thier is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Frank Press and Dr. Robert M. White are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council. Support for this project was provided jointly by the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Climate Program Office under Grant Number NA87-AA-D-CP041. Cover: Photograph of an intense tornado that struck Union City, Oklahoma, on May 24, 1973. Observations of this storm on experimental Doppler radar and simultaneously by the Tornado-Intercept Project team of the National Severe Storms Laboratory provided the initial impetus for planning the next-generation weather radar (NEXRAD) system. (Courtesy of Joseph H. Golden of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.) Available from the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate National Research Council 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20418 Printed in the United States of America
COMMITTEE ON METEOROLOGICAL ANALYSIS, PREDICTION, AND RESEARCH* PETER S. RAY, Florida State University, Chairman JOHN R. BATES, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Goddard Space Flight Center JAMES A COAKLEY, Oregon State University J. MICHAEL FRITSCH, Pennsylvania State University ROBERT L. GALL, University of Arizona PETER V. HOBBS, University of Washington DONALD R. JOHNSON, University of Wisconsin-Madison THOMAS W. SCHLATTER, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Environmental Research Laboratories ROBERT J. SERAFIN, National Center for Atmospheric Research LEONARD SNELLMAN, Retired KENNETH H. BERGMAN, Staff Officer PANEL ON MESOSCALE RESEARCH* PETER S. RAY, Florida State University, Chairman WILLIAM R. COTTON, Colorado State University KERRY A EMANUEL, Massachusetts Institute of Technology J. MICHAEL FRITSCH, Pennsylvania State University JOHN B. HOVERMALE, Naval Environmental Prediction Research Facility DOUGLAS K. LILLY, University of Oklahoma ALEXANDER E. MacDONALD, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Environmental Research Laboratories WILLIAM L. SMITH, University of Wisconsin-Madison LOUIS UCCELLINI, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Goddard Space Flight Center KENNETH H. BERGMAN, Staff Officer FRED D. WHITE, Staff Officer â¢This report was initiated by the Panel on Mesoscale Research prior to its dissolution in June 1988. Its successor, the Committee on Meteorological Analysis, Prediction, and Research, com- pleted the report. iii
BOARD ON ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCES AND CLIMATE JOHN A. DUTTON, Pennsylvania State University, Chairman JON F. BARTHOLIC, Michigan State University RAFAEL L. BRAS, University of Iowa MOUSTAFA T. CHAHINE, California Institute of Technology MICHAEL H. GLANTZ, National Center for Atmospheric Research THOMAS E. GRAEDEL, AT&T Bell Laboratories DAVID D. HOUGHTON, University of Wisconsin, Madison RICHARD G. JOHNSON, retired EUGENIA KALNAY, National Meteorological Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration SYUKURO MANABE, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration GERALD R. NORTH, Texas A&M University Ex Officio ROBERT DICKINSON, National Center for Atmospheric Research PETER S. RAY, Florida State University ROBERT E. SIEVERS, University of Colorado DONALD J. WILLIAMS, Johns Hopkins University JOHN S. PERRY, Staff Director KENNETH H. BERGMAN, Staff Officer COMMISSION ON GEOSCIENCES, ENVIRONMENT, AND RESOURCES M. GORDON WOLMAN, The Johns Hopkins University, Chairman ROBERT C. BEARDSLEY, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution B. CLARK BURCHFIEL, Massachusetts Institute of Technology RALPH J. CICERONE, University of California at Irvine PETER S. EAGLESON, Massachusetts Institute of Technology LAWRENCE W. FUNKHOUSER, Chevron Corporation (retired) JACK E. OLIVER, Cornell University PHILIP A. PALMER, E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company FRANK L. PARKER, Vanderbilt University DENIS J. PRAGER, MacArthur Foundation DAVID M. RAUP, University of Chicago KARL K. TUREKIAN, Yale University STEPHEN RATTIEN, Executive Director IV
Preface Much of the weather that affects human activity has mesoscale dimen- sions. In addition, there is growing recognition that atmospheric circulations on this scale (2 to 2000 km) interact importantly with meteorological pro- cesses on both larger and smaller spatial scales, including, at the largest scales, global climate. However, mesoscale weather events are often too small and short-lived to be observed by the relatively widely spaced and in- frequently reporting radiosonde and surface observing sites that constitute the present operational observing network. Thus an improved mesoscale observational network, along with a research effort that takes advantage of it, should lead to greater understanding of mesoscale weather events and their interactions with processes on other scales and to advances in our understanding of the atmosphere as a whole. Scientists now recognize that, while there is still much to learn about the dynamics of weather processes, existing limitations in weather pre- dictions and warnings are primarily due to limitations in observations, computers, computer models, data assimilation, and dissemination of fore- cast information. These limitations are being reduced as new observing systems, improved computer capabilities, advanced models, and commu- nications technologies emerge. These new capabilities will enable us to observe and predict the weather in unprecedented detail and accuracy provided we develop the necessary knowledge and skills to use the new capabilities advantageously. Taken together, the development of enhanced technological capabil- ities, the scientific and socioeconomic importance of mesoscale weather
events, and the new opportunity to make progress all point to the need for implementing the National Stormscale Operational and Research Me- teorology (STORM) Program. This program will capitalize on the new observing systems and will create the knowledge base needed to improve forecasts in all seasons and all sections of the country. The framework for the National STORM Program grew out of a se- ries of workshops held by the atmospheric sciences community in the early 1980s. An essential aspect of the program is that it has both research and operational components. The need for STORM, and its underlying pre- cepts, was endorsed by the NSF-UCAR Long-Range Planning Committee in their report The Atmospheric Sciences: A Vision for 1989-1994 (National Science Foundation, Washington, D.C., 1987). This report recommends that the program be carried out as planned. The reader may ask why another report urging that the planned Na- tional STORM Program be implemented is needed at this time. The answer is twofold: (1) Despite much planning effort over the last several years, as indicated in Chapter 1, this very important program has been overshadowed by other programs and has not made the expected progress toward imple- mentation, and (2) the imminent modernization of the National Weather Service, involving bringing sophisticated new observing systems on-line, will not achieve the maximum possible improvement in weather forecast and warning services without a complementary scientific program of research and development. This report restates the need for such a program and argues that the planned STORM program is well designed to fulfill this need. I am grateful to the Panel on Mesoscale Research and its successor, the Committee on Meteorological Analysis, Prediction, and Research, for their thoughtful and stimulating discussions of the issues and for articulating the needs and opportunities in mesoscale meteorology. We are all indebted to the staff of the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate of the National Research Council for their help and counsel and especially to Kenneth Bergman and Doris Bouadjemi for their assistance in preparing this report. Peter S. Ray, Chairman Committee on Meteorological Analysis, Prediction, and Research
Contents Executive Summary 1 1 Introduction 4 The Problem, 4 Historical Perspective, 8 Recent Developments, 10 Purpose and Scope of This Report, 11 2 Status of Technology and Science in Mesoscale Meteorology 13 Emerging Observing Systems and New Technologies, 13 National Weather Service Modernization, 18 Development of New Models, 19 Advances in Fundamental Understanding, 20 Relationships to Climate and Atmospheric Chemistry, 23 3 Implications for Operational Meteorology 25 Operational Data Bases, 25 Hazardous Weather Warnings, 26 Short-Term Weather Forecasts, 26 Weather Information Services, 27 Hydrology, 27 Agriculture, 28 Transportation, 28 vii
Construction, 29 Outdoor Recreation, 29 Concluding Remarks, 30 4 Recommendations 31 5 Actions to Fulfill Recommendations 34 References 38 Appendix 43 viii