Initial-Condition Sensitivities and the Predictability of Downslope Winds
WASHINGTON UNIV SEATTLE DEPT OF ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCES
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The sensitivity of downslope wind forecasts to small changes in initial conditions is explored by using 70-member ensemble simulations of two prototypical windstorms observed during the Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment T-REX. The 10 weakest and 10 strongest ensemble members are composited and compared for each event. In the first case, the 6-h ensemble-mean forecast shows a large-amplitude breaking mountain wave and severe downslope winds. Nevertheless, the forecasts are very sensitive to the initial conditions because the difference in the downslope wind speeds predicted by the strong- and weak-member composites grows to larger than 28 ms over the 6-h forecast. The structure of the synoptic-scale flow one hour prior to the windstorm and during the windstorm is very similar in both the weak- and strong-member composites. Wave breaking is not a significant factor in the second case, in which the strong winds are generated by a layer of high static stability flowing beneath a layer of weaker mid- and upper-tropospheric stability. In this case, the sensitivity to initial conditions is weaker but still significant. The difference in downslope wind speeds between the weak- and strong-member composites grows to 22 ms over 12 h. During and one hour before the windstorm, the synoptic-scale flow exhibits appreciable differences between the strong- and weak-member composites. Although this case appears to be more predictable than the wave-breaking event, neither case suggests that much confidence should be placed in the intensity of downslope winds forecast 12 or more hours in advance.