Evaluation of planetary boundary layer parameterizations in tropical cyclones by comparison of in situ observations and high-resolution simulations of Hurricane Isabel (2003). Part I: Initialization, maximum winds, and the outer-core boundary layer

David S. Nolan, Jun A. Zhang, Daniel P. Stern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

122 Scopus citations


In this study, the first of two parts, the planetary boundary layer (PBL) depicted in high-resolutionWeather Research and Forecast Model (WRF) simulations of Hurricane Isabel (2003) is studied and evaluated by direct comparisons with in situ data obtained during the Coupled Boundary Layer and Air-Sea Transfer Experiment (CBLAST). In particular, two boundary layer schemes are evaluated: the Yonsei University (YSU) parameterization and the Mellor-Yamada-Janjić (MYJ) parameterization. Investigation of these schemes is useful since they are available for use with WRF, are both widely used, and are based on entirely different methods for simulating the PBL. In this first part, the model domains and initialization are described. For additional realism of the low-level thermodynamic environment, a simple mixed layer ocean model is used to simulate ocean cooling. The YSU and MYJ schemes are discussed, along with some modifications. Standard measures of the accuracy of the hurricane simulations, such as track, maximum surface wind speed, and minimum surface pressure are described for a variety of parameter choices and for the two parameterizations. The effects on track and intensity of increased horizontal and vertical resolutions are also shown. A modification of the original YSU and MYJ schemes to have ocean roughness lengths more in agreement with recent studies considerably improves the results of both schemes. Instantaneous wind maxima on the innermost grid with 1.33-km resolution are shown to be an accurate representation of the simulated 1-min sustained winds. The simulated boundary layers are evaluated by direct comparison of the PBL as simulated and as observed by in situ data from the CBLAST experiment in the "outer core" region of the storm. The two PBL schemes and their modified counterparts reproduce the observed PBL remarkably well. Comparisons are also made to the observed vertical fluxes of momentum, heat, and moisture. In Part II, the detailed comparisons of the intensities and structures of the simulated and observed innercore boundary layers are presented, and the reasons for the differences are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3651-3674
Number of pages24
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2009


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

Cite this