“1D+4DVAR” Assimilation of NCEP Stage-IV Radar and Gauge Hourly Precipitation Data at ECMWF
Abstract The one- plus four-dimensional variational data assimilation (?1D+4DVAR?) method currently run in operations at ECMWF with rain-affected radiances from the Special Sensor Microwave Imager is used to study the potential impact of assimilating NCEP stage-IV analyses of hourly accumulated surface precipitation over the U.S. mainland. These data are a combination of rain gauge measurements and observations from the high-resolution Doppler Next-Generation Weather Radars. Several 1D+4DVAR experiments have been run over a month in spring 2005. First, the quality of the precipitation forecasts in the control experiment is assessed. Then, it is shown that the impact of the assimilation of the additional rain observations on global scores of dynamical fields and temperature is rather neutral, while precipitation scores are improved for forecast ranges up to 12 h. Additional 1D+4DVAR experiments in which all moisture-affected observations are removed over the United States demonstrate that the NCEP stage-IV precipitation data on their own can clearly be beneficial to the analyses and subsequent forecasts of the moisture field. This result suggests that the potential impact of precipitation observations is overshadowed by the influence of other high-quality humidity observations, in particular, radiosondes. It also confirms that the assimilation of precipitation observations has the ability to improve the quality of moisture analyses and forecasts in data-sparse regions. Finally, the limitations inherent in the current assimilation of precipitation data, their implications for the future, and possible ways of improvement are discussed.