AbstractThe “Santa Ana” winds of Southern California represent a high-impact weather event because their dry, fast winds can significantly elevate the wildfire threat. This high-resolution numerical study of six events of moderate or greater strength employs physics parameterization and stochastic perturbation ensembles to determine the optimal model configuration for predicting winds in San Diego County, with verification performed against observations from the San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) mesonet. Results demonstrate model physics can have a material effect on the strength, location, and timing of the winds, with the land surface model playing an outsized role via its specification of surface roughness lengths. Even when bias in the network-averaged sustained wind forecasts is minimized, systematic biases remain in that many stations are consistently over- or underforecasted. The argument is made that this is an “unavoidable” error that represents localized anemometer exposure issues revealed through the station gust factor. A very simple gust parameterization is proposed for the mesonet based on the discovery that the network-averaged gust factor is independent of weather conditions and results in unbiased forecasts of gusts at individual stations and the mesonet as a whole. Combined with atmospheric humidity and fuel moisture information, gust forecasts can help in the assessment of wildfire risks.
Weather and Forecasting – American Meteorological Society
Published: Apr 27, 2018
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