Assimilation of simulated Doppler radar observations with an ensemble Kalman filter

Chris Snyder, Fuqing Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

385 Scopus citations


Assimilation of Doppler radar data into cloud models is an important obstacle to routine numerical weather prediction for convective-scale motions; the difficulty lies in initializing fields of wind, temperature, moisture, and condensate given only observations of radial velocity and reflectivity from the radar. This paper investigates the potential of the ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF), which estimates the covariances between observed variables and the state through an ensemble of forecasts, to assimilate radar observations at convective scales. In the basic experiment, simulated observations are extracted from a reference simulation of a splitting supercell and assimilated using the EnKF and the same numerical model that produced the reference simulation. The EnKF produces accurate analyses, including the unobserved variables, after roughly 30 min (or six scans) of radial velocity observations. Additional experiments, in which forecasts are made from the ensemble-mean analysis, reveal that forecast errors grow significantly in this simple system, so that the ability of the EnKF to track the reference solution is not simply because of stable system dynamics. It is also found that the covariances between radial velocity and temperature, moisture, and condensate are important to the quality of the analyses, as is the initialization chosen for the ensemble members prior to assimilating the first observations. These results are promising, especially given the ease of implementing the EnKF. A number of important issues remain, however, including the initialization of the ensemble prior to the first observation, the treatment of uncertainty in the environmental sounding, the role of error in the forecast model (particularly the microphysical parameterizations), and the treatment of lateral boundary conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1663-1677
Number of pages15
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number8 PART 1
StatePublished - Aug 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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