Using Convection-Allowing Ensembles to Understand the Predictability of an Extreme Rainfall Event Academic Article uri icon


  • This research uses convection-allowing ensemble forecasts to address aspects of the predictability of an extreme rainfall event that occurred in south-central Texas on 25 May 2013, which was poorly predicted by operational and experimental numerical models and caused a flash flood in San Antonio that resulted in three fatalities. Most members of the ensemble had large errors in the location and magnitude of the heavy rainfall, but one member approximately reproduced the observed rainfall distribution. On a regional scale a flow-dependent diurnal cycle in ensemble spread growth is observed with large growth associated with afternoon convection, but the growth rate then reduced after convection dissipates the next morning rather than continuing to grow. Experiments that vary the magnitude of the perturbations to the initial and lateral boundary conditions reveal flow dependencies on the scales responsible for the ensemble growth and the degree to which practical (i.e., deficiencies in observing systems and numerical models) and intrinsic predictability limits (i.e., moist convective dynamic error growth) affect a particular convective event. Specifically, it was found that large-scale atmospheric forcing tends to dominate the ensemble spread evolution, but small-scale error growth can be of near-equal importance in certain convective scenarios where interaction across scales is prevalent and essential to the local precipitation processes. In a similar manner, aspects of the “upscale error growth” and “downscale error cascade” conceptual models are seen in the experiments, but neither completely explains the spread characteristics seen in the simulations.

author list (cited authors)

  • Nielsen, E. R., & Schumacher, R. S.

citation count

  • 24

publication date

  • October 2016