U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Monthly Weather Review 142 (January 2014); DOI: 10.1175/MWR-D-13-00142.1


Copyright 2014 American Meteorological Society


This work evaluates the short-term forecast (<6 h) of the 29–30 June 2012 derecho event from the Advanced Research core of the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF-ARW) when using two distinct data assimilation techniques at cloud-resolving scales (3-km horizontal grid). The first technique assimilates total lightning data using a smooth nudging function. The second method is a three-dimensional variational technique (3DVAR) that assimilates radar reflectivity and radial velocity data. A suite of sensitivity experiments revealed that the lightning assimilation was better able to capture the placement and intensity of the derecho up to 6 h of the forecast. All the simulations employing 3DVAR, however, best represented the storm’s radar reflectivity structure at the analysis time.Detailed analysis revealed that a small feature in the velocity field fromone of the six selected radars in the original 3DVAR experiment led to the development of spurious convection ahead of the parent mesoscale convective system, which significantly degraded the forecast. Thus, the relatively simple nudging scheme using lightning data complements the more complex variational technique. The much lower computational cost of the lightning scheme may permit its use alongside variational techniques in improving severe weather forecasts on days favorable for the development of outflow-dominated mesoscale convective systems.