A Comparison of the Impacts of Inner-Core, In-Vortex, and Environmental Dropsondes on Tropical Cyclone Forecasts during the 2017–20 Hurricane Seasons
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A Comparison of the Impacts of Inner-Core, In-Vortex, and Environmental Dropsondes on Tropical Cyclone Forecasts during the 2017–20 Hurricane Seasons

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  • Journal Title:
    Weather and Forecasting
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    This study conducts the first large-sample comparison of the impact of dropsondes in the tropical cyclone (TC) inner core, vortex, and environment on NWP-model TC forecasts. We analyze six observing-system experiments, focusing on four sensitivity experiments that denied dropsonde observations within annuli corresponding with natural breakpoints in reconnaissance sampling. These are evaluated against two other experiments detailed in a recent parallel study: one that assimilated and another that denied dropsonde observations. Experiments used a basin-scale, multistorm configuration of the Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) Model and covered active periods of the 2017–20 North Atlantic hurricane seasons. Analysis focused on forecasts initialized with dropsondes that used mesoscale error covariance derived from a cycled HWRF ensemble, as these forecasts were where dropsondes had the greatest benefits in the parallel study. Some results generally support findings of previous research, while others are novel. Most notable was that removing dropsondes anywhere, particularly from the vortex, substantially degraded forecasts of maximum sustained winds. Removing in-vortex dropsondes also degraded outer-wind-radii forecasts in many instances. As such, in-vortex dropsondes contribute to a majority of the overall impacts of the dropsonde observing system. Additionally, track forecasts of weak TCs benefited more from environmental sampling, while track forecasts of strong TCs benefited more from in-vortex sampling. Finally, inner-core-only sampling strategies should be avoided, supporting a change made to the U.S. Air Force Reserve’s sampling strategy in 2018 that added dropsondes outside of the inner core. Significance Statement This study uses a regional hurricane model to conduct the most comprehensive assessment to date of the impact of dropsondes at different distances away from the center of a tropical cyclone (TC) on TC forecasts. The main finding is that in-vortex dropsondes are most important for intensity and outer-wind-radii forecasts. Particularly notable is the impact of dropsondes on TC maximum wind speed forecasts, as reducing sampling anywhere would degrade those forecasts.
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    Weather and Forecasting, 38(11), 2169-2187
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