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Evaluation of the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) Model using Near-Surface Meteorological and Flux Observations from Northern Alabama


The High Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) model became operational at the National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) in 2014 but the HRRR’s performance over certain regions of the coterminous US has not been well studied. In the present study, we evaluated how well version 2 of the HRRR, which became operational at NCEP in August 2016, simulates the near-surface meteorological fields and the surface energy balance at two locations in northern Alabama. We evaluated the 1-, 3-, 6-, 12-, and 18-h HRRR forecasts, as well as the HRRR’s initial conditions, i.e. the 0-h initial fields, using meteorological and flux observations obtained from two 10-m micrometeorological towers installed near Belle Mina and Cullman, Alabama. During the 8-month model evaluation period, from 1 September 2016 through 30 April 2017, we found that the HRRR accurately simulated the observations of near-surface air and dew point temperature (R2 > 0.95). When comparing the HRRR output with the observed sensible, latent, and ground heat flux at both sites, we found that the agreement was weaker (R2 ≈ 0.7), and the root mean square errors were much larger than those found for the near-surface meteorological variables. These findings help motivate the need for additional work to improve the representation of surface fluxes and their coupling to the atmosphere in future version of the HRRR to be more physically realistic.

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