Customized Atmospheric + Hydrologic Modeling

Over the past several decades, RAL has developed and deployed complex computer-based operational systems for analyzing and forecasting climate, weather, and hydrology at high resolution worldwide. This development is built upon the Laboratory’s deep foundation of applied scientific research and engineering. Systems and their products are tailored to each project to maximize the benefit to the sponsors and end-users. For example, improved analyses and forecasts at Army test ranges saves millions of tax dollars by identifying when weather suitable for testing will occur, and improves safety by predicting conditions that would be hazardous to personnel and materiel. Among the broad experience, examples include: (1) forecasting for wind farms at resolutions that can approximate large eddies within the atmosphere’s boundary layer, (2) new, innovative ways to supply models with current observations from radar, (3) and exploring how urban development affects the weather, and (4) how that weather in turn affects the health of people living in urban areas. High-resolution prediction capabilities in RAL continue to go to finer scales, with current work addressing sub-km simulations and forecasts. Fine-scale modeling is also being rapidly extended to climate time scales; dynamical downscaling informs energy, security, and hydrologic planning for a changing climate with regional impacts.

AutoNowcaster 30 min storm initiation nowcast field (Storm Init) in “interest” values.  The higher the interest value (pink and red shades), the higher the likelihood for new storm initiation.
AutoNowcaster 30 min storm initiation nowcast field (Storm Init) in “interest” values.  The higher the interest value (pink and red shades), the higher the likelihood for new storm initiation.

Understanding the hydrologic cycle is the key to understanding and predicting how hydrologic risks associated with floods and how sustainability of water resources will evolve in the 21st century in the face of global change. When considered on a regional basis, areas exist where future water supply may not be sustainable relative to societal demands (e.g. domestic, agricultural and industrial uses) of the last century. Changing patterns of intense precipitation and rapidly changing land use practices may also alter the patterns and severity of flood inundation compared with existing risks. Ongoing research in RAL is focused on meeting the associated needs of national (federal, state, county and municipal) and international organizations in the public and private sectors by bringing state of-the-art science and methods to support operational decision making and future scenario planning. Users of such information vary from national meteorological and hydrological services, to flood control districts, to emergency managers, and to a variety of water resource managers. To support these enterprises, RAL is actively developing and supporting a new generation of hydrometeorological analysis and prediction tools that provide the community with new capabilities to explore critical questions and needs related to:

  • Short-term storm and flood prediction
  • Hydrometeorological processes at the land-atmosphere interface
  • Microphysical parameterizations for models
  • Water systems under global change
  • Winter precipitation and snowpack
  • Aerosols and precipitation
  • Water resources management