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EnKF assimilation of high-resolution, mobile Doppler radar data of the 4 May 2007 Greensburg, Kansas, supercell into a numerical cloud model


Mobile Doppler radar data, along with observations from a nearby Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D), are assimilated with an ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF) technique into a nonhydrostatic, compressible numerical weather prediction model to analyze the evolution of the 4 May 2007 Greensburg, Kansas, tornadic supercell. The storm is simulated via assimilation of reflectivity and velocity data in an initially horizontally homogeneous environment whose parameters are believed to be a close approximation to those of the Greensburg supercell inflow sector. Experiments are conducted to test analysis sensitivity to mobile radar data availability and to the mean environmental near-surface wind profile, which was changing rapidly during the simulation period. In all experiments, a supercell with similar location and evolution to the observed storm is analyzed, but the simulated storm’s characteristics differ markedly. The assimilation of mobile Doppler radar data has a much greater impact on the resulting analyses, particularly at low altitudes (≤2 km), than modifications to the near-surface environmental wind profile. Differences in the analyzed updrafts, vortices, cold pool structure, rear-flank gust front structure, and observation-space diagnostics are documented. An analyzed vortex corresponding to the enhanced Fujita scale 5 (EF-5) Greensburg tornado is stronger and deeper in experiments in which mobile (higher resolution) Doppler radar data are included in the assimilation. This difference is linked to stronger analyzed horizontal convergence, which in turn is associated with increased stretching of vertical vorticity. Changing the near-surface wind profile appears to impact primarily the updraft strength, availability of streamwise vorticity for tilting into the vertical, and low-level vortex strength and longevity.

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