Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems
  • Open Access

Prediction and uncertainty of Hurricane Sandy (2012) explored through a real-time cloud-permitting ensemble analysis and forecast system assimilating airborne Doppler radar observations



[1] Utilizing the Pennsylvania State University (PSU) real-time convection-permitting hurricane analysis and forecasting system (WRF-EnKF) that assimilates airborne Doppler radar observations, the sensitivity and uncertainty of forecasts initialized several days prior to landfall of Hurricane Sandy (2012) are assessed. The performance of the track and intensity forecasts of both the deterministic and ensemble forecasts by the PSU WRF-EnKF system show significant skill and are comparable to or better than forecasts produced by operational dynamical models, even at lead times of 4–5 days prior to landfall. Many of the ensemble members correctly capture the interaction of Sandy with an approaching midlatitude trough, which precedes Sandy's forecasted landfall in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. However, the ensemble reveals considerable forecast uncertainties in the prediction of Sandy. For example, in the ensemble forecast initialized at 0000 UTC 26 October 2012, 10 of the 60 members do not predict a United States landfall. Using ensemble composite and sensitivity analyses, the essential dynamics and initial condition uncertainties that lead to forecast divergence among the members in tracks and precipitation are examined. It is observed that uncertainties in the environmental steering flow are the most impactful factor on the divergence of Sandy's track forecasts, and its subsequent interaction with the approaching midlatitude trough. Though the midlatitude system does not strongly influence the final position of Sandy, differences in the timing and location of its interactions with Sandy lead to considerable differences in rainfall forecasts, especially with respect to heavy precipitation over land.