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David Parsons NCAR/EOL/MMM Co-chair, North American Regional Committee A photographic collage depicting the societal, economic and ecological impacts of severe weather associated with four Rossby wave-trains that encircled the globe during November 2002 . What is THORPEX?

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David Parsons


Co-chair, North American Regional Committee

A photographic collage depicting the societal, economic and ecological impacts of severe weather associated with four Rossby wave-trains that encircled the globe during November 2002.


What is THORPEX?

THORPEX: a Global Atmospheric Research Programme is an international research programme to accelerate improvements in the accuracy of 1 to 14-day high-impact weather forecasts for the benefit of society and the economy.

THORPEX will make progress by enhancing international collaboration between the research and operational-forecasting communities and with users of forecast products.

THORPEX is coordinated within the World Meteorological Organization. Fifteen countries (Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Iceland, India, Korea, Norway, Russia, South Africa, Spain, UK, US) and the European Commission are leading the THORPEX effort. Participation includes developing (the 54 countries of African for example) and developed world. Thirty six countries will be represented at the 1st Intl Science Symposium. The THORPEX web site is

The THORPEX 10-year implementation phase begins 1 January 2005.

International Science Plan

Version 2: September 2003

four interrelated and coordinated thorpex sub programmes
Four Interrelated and Coordinated THORPEX Sub-programmes
  • Observing Systems
  • Data Assimilation and Observing Strategies
  • Predictability and Dynamical Processes
  • Societal and Economic Impacts.
  • Includes research activities, several field campaigns, and societal and economic demonstration projects.
  • Combine efforts to work on grand challenges (design of the next generation integrated global observing network, research underpinnings for “paradigm shifts” in operational prediction operational forecasts (i.e., combining of multi-national modeling efforts, expansion of adaptive nature of forecast systems, etc))
thorpex global perspective
THORPEX -- Global Perspective

THORPEX – A Global Atmospheric Research Programme is a once in our lifetime opportunity focusing the talents of the world’s research and operational communities to better understand and predict the atmosphere with profound implications for society.

Past opportunities and efforts include……..

  • The International Geophysical Year (1957-58) that followed the advent of the upper-air network in the post-war era, the recognized needs to develop satellite measurements and the desire to solve geophysical research challenges through international collaboration.
  • The first GARP effort that concluded with FGGE (First Global GARP Experiment) in 1978-79 and was motivated by the first opportunity for quantitative global measurements.

These efforts were also recognized by and closely coordinated within the World Meteorological Organization.

why another garp type effort
Why another GARP-type effort?
  • GARP was successful leaving a legacy of a global observing system and global modeling for climate and numerical weather prediction (NWP). One of the grand scientific and technical accomplishments of the 20th century.
  • However……………….
    • Progress in global NWP has been steady, but relatively slow.
    • Failures still occur in the prediction of high impact weather and in efforts to mitigate disastrous weather events ($18 billion in US)
    • NA research focus is elsewhere (drift toward climate and small-scale studies)
    • Strong economic benefits in developed world (~¼ of US and CA GNPs are sensitive to weather; often impacting profit margins) and strong public safety issues in developing world
    • Observations for even the 1-day forecast extends well beyond our national borders (therefore a international effort is required)
    • Fundamental changes in global observing systems (satellite revolution, proposed changes in in-situ sensors)
    • Hypothesis that many higher impact events that occur on the mesoscale are driven by organized global dynamic features (i.e., greater predictability than many would expect)

57 billion dollar weather-related

  • disasters between years 1980 and 2003.
  • Seven occurred during 1998 alone and the 48 during the 1988-2003 period totaled unadjusted damages/costs of nearly $215 billion.
  • In a typical year, between 300 and 400 people in the US die each from hazardous weather (peak years ~1000-10,000)
perceived forecast failures
7-8 Feb. 2002, Pacific NW cyclone with damaging winds, extensive power outages in Oregon

13-14 Dec. 2001, west coast mountains experience heavy orographic snows

Above examples from 10-15 significant intensity, timing and location errors per year of storms in the Pacific NW

10 June 2001 Houston impacts of TS Allison, 22 deaths, $4-5 billion in damage, medical emergency (5 hospitals in flood plain)

17 June 2001, Flooding from remnants of TS Allison on NE US

24-26 Jan. 2000 “surprise” snow , storm Carolina to NE with all-time record Carolina snowfall

2000 and 2002 regionally over-predicted east coast snow falls

Fall 1999, two storms from cut-off lows produce snow in N Vermont and N NY

16 Sept 1999, Hurricane Floyd after landfall (>1 billion in damage and 16 deaths) in NE US

5-9 Jan 1998: Montreal ice storm, in the US freezing rain occurs in areas where only rain is predicted

17-18 Oct 1998, SE Texas floods, some errors in location and magnitude, 1 billion in damage and 31 deaths

19 Jan. 1997 Florida freeze, 100,000 farm workers unemployed or displaced, 300 million in crop damage in one region alone

Perceived Forecast “Failures”
moore s law for intel
Moore’s Law for Intel





1st Example: Central European Floods


August 2002

Courtesy of Mel Shapiro


The Storm



Dundee Satellite Station: 1241 UTC 11 Aug. 2002

Courtesy of Mel Shapiro


Dresden Germany

Courtesy of Mel Shapiro

central european floods
Central European Floods

Cyclogenesis off Japan

Courtesy of Shapiro and Thorpe

2 nd example minnesota flood 9 11 june 2002
2nd Example: Minnesota Flood: 9-11 June 2002

Moderate drought

on 1 June


rainfall in excess

of 5 inches.

Flood with >$340

million in federal

disaster aid.

80% of homes

and businesses

damaged in

Roseau, MN

Locally most significant

flood on record.


Wisc. flood, previous

wave packet ?

Convection along Mei-Yu Front


Mn flood

from frontal


2nd Downstream


thorpex connection to north american ensemble efforts
THORPEX Connection to North American Ensemble Efforts
  • THORPEX proposes a THORPEX Interactive Grand Global Ensemble (TIGGE).
  • The NA efforts is a pioneer in this direction of a TIGGE (test scientific hypotheses; overcome hurdles in communication, impact of model differences on user fields, examination of model physics, bias correction, forecast impact, etc)
  • Full TIGGE to be tested during campaign periods (i.e., IPY/Pacific Regional Campaign in winters 2007-08 and 2008-09)
north american participation in 2003 atlantic regional experiment observational phase 13 oct 12 dec
North American Participation in 2003 Atlantic Regional ExperimentObservational Phase: 13 Oct – 12 Dec
  • IOP - ran from 13 Oct. until 12 Dec.
  • 21 TReC cases of targeted observations

TReC_023: Heavy Mediterranean rainfall

Severe flooding Marseilles 2nd December

TReC_026: prolonged, heavy snow; gale-force winds

Snow in Boston 8th December

upcoming events
Upcoming Events
  • See
    • Intl Science Symposium (6-10 Dec 2004 in Montreal)
    • 1st International Workshop on TIGGE Implementation (1-4? March 2005, ECMWF, UK – David Richardson -- lead)
    • International Workshop focusing on Users of Ensemble Forecast Products (Decision Making, Decision Support Tools) -- (Autumn 2005, Paris, FR – David Parsons – lead), limited to ~100 participants