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The Big Questions:1. Can we use atmospheric models to simulate and forecast local weather features?2. Can we create an integrated regional environmental modeling system for research and prediction by coupling preexisting models and using all operational data assets?

the atmospheric model mm5
The Atmospheric Model: MM5

The Penn. State/NCAR mesoscale model V3.5 (MM5). A full physics primitive equation numerical prediction model, it is being run:

  • twice a day at 36/12/4 km horizontal grid spacing. 38 levels forced by the NCEP Global Forecast System (GFS) run
    • 0 to 72h for 36/12
    • 0 to 48 h for 4 km
  • Twice a day at 36/12km grid spacing forced by the NCEP Eta Model (available sooner)
some comments
Some Comments
  • A 4-km model does NOT resolve 4-km scale features…more like 20-25 km.
  • There are major issues (problems) in the physical parameterizations that we are actively working to improve, such as:
    • Moist physics
    • Land surface and boundary-layer physics
    • Radiation schemes


a 20 processor athlon cluster


WRF Cluster:

The Most




Athlon Linux


current mm5 system
Current MM5 System
  • Model forecasts are verified against all regional observations
  • Model graphics are available on the web
  • Model grids are shipped to some consortium members (e.g., NWS)
a vision of an integrated regional modeling system
A Vision of an Integrated Regional Modeling System

Output from the MM5 is now being fed into a number of modeling and diagnostic systems:

  • Distributed Hydrological Model for Western Washington (PRISM Major Support)
  • Calgrid Air Quality Model
  • Land Surface Model for Surface Temperature Prediction
  • Smoke, Ventilation, and Fire Guidance
  • Transportation Information System

And hopefully soon will be integrated with others (e.g. Puget Sound)


Terrain - 150 meter aggregated from 30 meter resolution DEM

  • Land Cover - 19 classes aggregated from over 200 GAP classes
  • Soils - 3 layers aggregated from 13 layers (31 different classes); variable soil depth from 1-3 meters
  • Stream Network - based on 0.25 km2 source area
u s forest service
U.S. Forest Service
  • MM5 grids are sent to the field for running Eulerian and Lagrangian smoke plume/dispersion models.
  • MM5 output used for fire fighting operations.
military applications
Military Applications
  • The NW MM5 is now the main source of regional forecasts for Navy and Air Force operations at Whidbey NAS and McChord Air Force Base, as well as the Everett Carrier homeport.
ensemble forecasting
Ensemble Forecasting
  • A major push has been made toward ensemble forecasting using the MM5 because of initial condition and physics uncertainty.
  • The goal is to provide probabilistic predictions, including forecasts of model skill.
  • The MM5 is now being run at 36/12 km resolution with approximately 25 different initializations and lateral boundary conditions, as well as varying model physics.
regional ensemble configuration
Regional Ensemble Configuration
  • Makes use of the differing initializations (and boundary conditions) from major operational NWP centers (e.g., NCEP, Navy, Canadian, UKMET, Australian, Taiwanese, etc) and varying physics options.
  • Early results very encouraging (e.g., using ensembles to predict forecast skill)

Relating Forecast Skill and Model Spread

Mean Absolute Error of Wind Direction is Far Less When

Spread is Low

regional observational database
Regional Observational Database

Since the mid-1980’s, have collected all available data networks in the Pacific NW

Data collected and quality controlled in real-time

The database is used for verification of the regional MM5 forecasts, regional application, and local research

research on physical parameterizations
Research on Physical Parameterizations
  • IMPROVE: To improve moist physics in mesoscale models using data from the Pacific Northwest. Multi-investigator project. Data from a major field experiment
  • PBL Parameterization Project: Evaluation and improvement of MM5 PBL schemes. Sponsored by the Forest Service

British Columbia



UW Convair-580

Airborne Doppler Radar

Cascade Mts.





I. Offshore



(Wash. Coast,

Jan-Feb 2001)

II. Orographic




Nov-Dec 2001)

S-Pol Radar

Offshore Frontal

Study Area

BINET Antenna

  • Olympic Mts.

Olympic Mts.

Paine Field

Univ. of Washington


Area of Multi-Doppler Coverage

Wind Profiler



Cascade Mts.

WSRP Dropsondes

Special Raingauges

PNNL Remote

Sensing Site

Columbia R.

90 nm

(168 km)


Ground Observer

S-Pol Radar Range

S-Pol Radar Range

100 km




Terrain Heights

Coastal Mts.


< 100 m


Study Area

100-500 m

500-1000 m

1000-1500 m


1500-2000 m

2000-3000 m

> 3000 m

Rain Gauge Sites in OSA Vicinity

Santiam Pass

OSA ridge crest

Santiam Pass

Orographic Study Area

S-Pol Radar Range

Cascade Mts.

Coastal Mts.


SNOTEL sites

CO-OP rain gauge sites



50 km

modeling winds in the columbia gorge
Modeling Winds in the Columbia Gorge

Cascade Locks



  • Strongest winds are at the exit

1.3 km grid spacing

4-km grid spacing


4-km grid spacing

1.3 km grid spacing

mesoscale climate forecasting
Mesoscale Climate Forecasting
  • Computer power is now available to run at high resolution (12km) for 5-10 years
  • Driven by GCM climate predictions, could gain insights into local implications of global warming.