Targeted observations of a polar low in the Norwegian sea
Irvine, E. A., Gray, S. L. and Methven, J. (2011) Targeted observations of a polar low in the Norwegian sea. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 137. pp. 1688-1699. ISSN 1477-870X (Part A)
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1002/qj.914
A developing polar low is targeted with dropsonde observations to improve the forecast of its landfall. Accurately forecasting a polar low's strength and location remains a challenge; polar lows form over the ocean in poorly observed regions, therefore initial condition errors may contribute significantly to forecast error. The targeted polar low formed in the Norwegian Sea on 3 March 2008, during the Norwegian IPY-THORPEX field campaign. Two flights, six hours apart, released dense networks of dropsondes into a sensitive region covering the polar low and Arctic front to its west. The impact of the targeted observations is assessed using the limited-area Met Office Unified Model and three-dimensional variational (3D-Var) data assimilation scheme. Forecasts were verified using ECMWF analysis data, which show good agreement with both dropsonde data from a flight through the mature polar low, and 10 m QuikSCAT winds. The impact of the targeted data moved southwards with the polar low as it developed and then hit the Norwegian coast after 24 hours. The results show that the forecast of the polar low is sensitive to the initial conditions; targeted observations from the first flight did not improve the forecast, but those from the second flight clearly improved the forecast polar low position and intensity. However, caution should be applied to attributing the forecast improvement to the assimilation of the targeted observations from a single case-study, especially in this case as the forecast improvement is moderate relative to the spread from an operational ensemble forecast