Lake-effect snow (LES) is a cold-season mesoscale convective phenomenon that can lead to significant snowfall rates and accumulations in the Great Lakes region of the United States. While limited-area numerical weather prediction models have shown skill in prediction of warm-season convective storms, forecasting the sharp nature of LES precipitation timing, intensity, and location is difficult because of model error and initial and boundary condition uncertainties. Ensemble forecasting can incorporate and quantify some sources of forecast error, but ensemble design must be considered. This study examines the relative contributions of forecast uncertainties to LES forecast error using a regional convection-allowing data assimilation and ensemble prediction system. Ensembles are developed using various methods of perturbations to simulate a long-lived and high-precipitation LES event in December 2013, and forecast performance is evaluated using observations including those from the Ontario Winter Lake-Effect Systems (OWLeS) campaign. Model lateral boundary conditions corresponding to weather conditions beyond the Great Lakes region play an influential role in LES precipitation forecasts and their uncertainty, as evidenced by ensemble spread, particularly at lead times beyond one day. A strong forecast dependence on regional initial conditions was shown using data assimilation. This sensitivity impacts the timing and intensity of predicted precipitation, as well as band location and orientation assessed with an object-based verification approach, giving insight into the time scales of practical predictability of LES. Overall, an assimilation-cycling convection-allowing ensemble prediction system could improve future lake-effect snow precipitation forecasts and analyses and can help quantify and understand sources of forecast uncertainty.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atmospheric Science