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PUBLICATION HIGHLIGHT: The Representation of Cumulus Convection in High-Resolution Simulations of the 2013 Colorado Front Range Flood

Colorado Flood of 2013 (Credit: Raul Valenzuela, CIRES)
Colorado Flood of 2013 (Credit: Raul Valenzuela, CIRES)

DECEMBER 16, 2016—During the week of September 9-16, 2013, record-breaking rainfall and historic flooding occurred over portions of Colorado’s Front Range region, causing eight fatalities and more than $2 billion in damage to property and roads. Follow-up assessments of how well the models predicted the event suggest that higher-resolution models could have provided better forecasts. Researcher Kelly Mahoney, of ESRL's Physical Sciences Division, performed simulations of the event using a high-resolution (4-km grid) model to evaluate the sensitivity to a particular set of model physics: those which aim to represent intense thunderstorm and precipitation. Her findings, published in the November 2016 issue of Monthly Weather Review, show that higher-resolution models are likely better at representing strong convection on their own—that is, without the help of parameterization schemes which approximate many of the effects of such storms. Accounting for the overall model sensitivity to this set of physics may aid forecasters and researchers in model output interpretation and future model system design.

Mahoney, K. (November 2016): The Representation of Cumulus Convection in High-Resolution Simulations of the 2013 Colorado Front Range Flood. Mon. Wea. Rev., 144, 4265–4278, doi:10.1175/MWR-D-16-0211.1.