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Using total precipitable water anomaly as a forecast aid for heavy precipitation events




VandenBoogart, Lance M., author
Vonder Haar, Thomas H., advisor
Schumacher, Russ S., committee member
Ramirez, Jorge A., committee member
Kidder, Stanley Q., committee member

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Heavy precipitation events are of interest to weather forecasters, local government officials, and the Department of Defense. These events can cause flooding which endangers lives and property. Military concerns include decreased trafficability for military vehicles, which hinders both war- and peace-time missions. Even in data-rich areas such as the United States, it is difficult to determine when and where a heavy precipitation event will occur. The challenges are compounded in data-denied regions. The hypothesis that total precipitable water anomaly (TPWA) will be positive and increasing preceding heavy precipitation events is tested in order to establish an understanding of TPWA evolution. Results are then used to create a precipitation forecast aid. The operational, 16 km-gridded, 6-hourly TPWA product developed at the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA) compares a blended TPW product with a TPW climatology to give a percent of normal TPWA value. TPWA evolution is examined for 84 heavy precipitation events which occurred between August 2010 and November 2011. An algorithm which uses various TPWA thresholds derived from the 84 events is then developed and tested using dichotomous contingency table verification statistics to determine the extent to which satellite-based TPWA might be used to aid in forecasting precipitation over mesoscale domains. The hypothesis of positive and increasing TPWA preceding heavy precipitation events is supported by the analysis. Event-average TPWA rises for 36 hours and peaks at 154% of normal at the event time. The average precipitation event detected by the forecast algorithm is not of sufficient magnitude to be termed a "heavy" precipitation event; however, the algorithm adds skill to a climatological precipitation forecast. Probability of detection is low and false alarm ratios are large, thus qualifying the algorithm's current use as an aid rather than a deterministic forecast tool. The algorithm's ability to be easily modified and quickly run gives it potential for future use in precipitation forecasting.


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