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Anomaly-Based Weather Analysis versus Traditional Total-Field-Based Weather Analysis for Depicting Regional Heavy Rain Events
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    Weather and Forecasting, 31(1), 71-93.
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  • Description:
    Although the use of anomaly fields in the forecast process has been shown to be useful and has caught forecasters' attention, current short-range (1-3 days) weather analyses and forecasts are still predominantly total-field based. This paper systematically examines the pros and cons of anomaly- versus total-field-based approaches in weather analysis using a case from 1 July 1991 (showcase) and 41 cases from 1998 (statistics) of heavy rain events that occurred in China. The comparison is done for both basic atmospheric variables (height, temperature, wind, and humidity) and diagnostic parameters (divergence, vorticity, and potential vorticity). Generally, anomaly fields show a more enhanced and concentrated signal (pattern) directly related to surface anomalous weather events, while total fields can obscure the visualization of anomalous features due to the climatic background. The advantage is noticeable in basic atmospheric variables, but is marginal in nonconservative diagnostic parameters and is lost in conservative diagnostic parameters. Sometimes a mix of total and anomaly fields works the best; for example, in the moist vorticity when anomalous vorticity combines with total moisture, it can depict the heavy rain area the best when comparing to either the purely total or purely anomalous moist vorticity. Based on this study, it is recommended that anomaly-based weather analysis could be a valuable supplement to the commonly used total-field-based approach. Anomalies can help a forecaster to more quickly identify where an abnormal weather event might occur as well as more easily pinpoint possible meteorological causes than a total field. However, one should not use the anomaly structure approach alone to explain the underlying dynamics without a total field.

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