Exploiting existing ground-based remote sensing networks to improve high-resolution weather forecasts

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Illingworth, Anthony J. ; Cimini, D. ; Gaffard, C. ; Haeffelin, M. ; Lehmann, V. ; Löhnert, U. ; O'Connor, Ewan J. ; Ruffieux, D. (2015)

A new generation of high-resolution (1 km) forecast models promises to revolutionize the prediction of hazardous weather such as windstorms, flash floods, and poor air quality. To realize this promise, a dense observing network, focusing on the lower few kilometers of the atmosphere, is required to verify these new forecast models with the ultimate goal of assimilating the data. At present there are insufficient systematic observations of the vertical profiles of water vapor, temperature, wind, and aerosols; a major constraint is the absence of funding to install new networks. A recent research program financed by the European Union, tasked with addressing this lack of observations, demonstrated that the assimilation of observations from an existing wind profiler network reduces forecast errors, provided that the individual instruments are strategically located and properly maintained. Additionally, it identified three further existing European networks of instruments that are currently underexploited, but with minimal expense they could deliver quality-controlled data to national weather services in near–real time, so the data could be assimilated into forecast models. Specifically, 1) several hundred automatic lidars and ceilometers can provide backscatter profiles associated with aerosol and cloud properties and structures with 30-m vertical resolution every minute; 2) more than 20 Doppler lidars, a fairly new technology, can measure vertical and horizontal winds in the lower atmosphere with a vertical resolution of 30 m every 5 min; and 3) about 30 microwave profilers can estimate profiles of temperature and humidity in the lower few kilometers every 10 min. Examples of potential benefits from these instruments are presented.
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