An evaluation of microphysics fields from mesoscale model simulations of tropical cyclones. Part I: Comparisons with observations

Robert F. Rogers, Michael L. Black, Shuyi S. Chen, Robert A. Black

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


This study presents a framework for comparing hydrometeor and vertical velocity fields from mesoscale model simulations of tropical cyclones with observations of these fields from a variety of platforms. The framework is based on the Yuter and Houze constant frequency by altitude diagram (CFAD) technique, along with a new hurricane partitioning technique, to compare the statistics of vertical motion and reflectivity fields and hydrometeor concentrations from two datasets: one consisting of airborne radar retrievals and microphysical probe measurements collected from tropical cyclone aircraft flights over many years, and another consisting of cloud-scale (1.67-km grid length) tropical cyclone simulations using the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University-National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesoscale Model (MM5). Such comparisons of the microphysics fields can identify biases in the simulations that may lead to an identification of deficiencies in the modeling system, such as the formulation of various physical parameterization schemes used in the model. Improvements in these schemes may potentially lead to better forecasts of tropical cyclone intensity and rainfall. In Part I of this study, the evaluation framework is demonstrated by comparing the radar retrievals and probe measurements to MM5 simulations of Hurricanes Bonnie (1998) and Floyd (1999). Comparisons of the statistics from the two datasets show that the model reproduces many of the gross features seen in the observations, though notable differences are evident. The general distribution of vertical motion is similar between the observations and simulations, with the strongest up- and downdrafts making up a small percentage of the overall population in both datasets, but the magnitudes of vertical motion are weaker in the simulations. The model-derived reflectivities are much higher than observed, and correlations between vertical motion and hydrometeor concentration and reflectivity show a much stronger relationship in the model than what is observed. Possible errors in the data processing are discussed as potential sources of differences between the observed and simulated datasets in Part I. In Part II, attention will be focused on using the evaluation framework to investigate the role that different model configurations (i.e., different resolutions and physical parameterizations) play in producing different microphysics fields in the simulation of Hurricane Bonnie. The microphysical and planetary boundary layer parameterization schemes, as well as higher horizontal and vertical resolutions, will be tested in the simulation to identify the extent to which changes in these schemes are reflected in improvements of the statistical comparisons with the observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1811-1834
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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