Forecasting near-surface weather conditions and precipitation in Alaska’s Prince William Sound with the PWS-WRF modeling system

Olsson, Peter Q.; Volz, Karl P.; Liu, Haibo

In the summer of 2009, several scientific teams engaged in a field program in Prince William Sound (PWS), Alaska to test an end-to-end atmosphere/ocean prediction system specially designed for this region. The “Sound Predictions Field Experiment” (FE) was a test of the PWS-Observing System (PWS-OS) and the culmination of a five-year program to develop an observational and prediction system for the Sound. This manuscript reports on results of an 18-day high-resolution atmospheric forecasting field project using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model.

Special attention was paid to surface meteorological properties and precipitation. Upon reviewing the results of the real-time forecasts, modifications were incorporated in the PWS-WRF modeling system in an effort to improve objective forecast skill. Changes were both geometric (model grid structure) and physical (different physics parameterizations).

The weather during the summer-time FE was typical of the PWS in that it was characterized by a number of minor disturbances rotating around an anchored low, but with no major storms in the Gulf of Alaska. The basic PWS-WRF modeling system as implemented operationally for the FE performed well, especially considering the extremely complex terrain comprising the greater PWS region.

Modifications to the initial PWS-WRF modeling system showed improvement in predicting surface variables, especially where the ambient flow interacted strongly with the terrain. Prediction of precipitation on an accumulated basis was more accurate than prediction on a day-to-day basis. The 18-day period was too short to provide reliable assessment and intercomparison of the quantitative precipitation forecasting (QPF) skill of the PWS-WRF model variants.

Geographic Areas


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Continental Shelf Research

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Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Published Here
October 23, 2015