High Winds Impacting Olympic Events Captured by NASA/SPoRT Model and Satellite Products

As summarized in a previous blog post, NASA/SPoRT is providing one of many numerical weather prediction (NWP) model solutions to South Korea during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games during February and March.  The field campaign is known as the International Collaborative Experiments for PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (ICE-POP). In combination with the suite of radar, satellite, and in situ observations during the field campaign, the SPoRT configuration of the NASA Unified-Weather Research and Forecasting (NU-WRF) will serve as a benchmark for future research to improve our understanding of snowfall in complex terrain, our ability to estimate snow using satellites, and for improving prediction models that parameterize these intricate processes.

A key component of the Olympics field campaign is to improve forecast models through comparison to observations and satellite retrieval products.  The constellation of passive microwave imagers being assembled in support of the Integrated Multi-satellitE Retrievals for the Global Precipitation Measurement mission (IMERG) precipitation dataset also provide information on near-surface meteorology necessary to estimate the surface turbulent fluxes. Algorithms designed to retrieve surface temperature, humidity, and wind speed are used together with bulk-flux algorithms to estimate the latent and sensible heat fluxes over the ocean surface. These fluxes are a source of energy and moisture for the overlying atmosphere.  One of the research goals of ICE-POP is to improve heat and moisture fluxes in prediction models through assimilation of these retrieval products.

During this past weekend, the Men’s Downhill Alpine was postponed until Thursday, and the Women’s Giant Slalom Qualifiers were canceled due to high winds that impacted Jeongseon Hill.  Figure 1 shows a 24-hour animation of NU-WRF simulated maximum 10-m wind speeds in 30-minute intervals on 11 February, on the 1-km nested grid centered on the Olympic venues.  We can see a substantial maximum in wind speed impacting the mountains along the eastern Korean Peninsula as well as offshore in the Sea of Japan.  Simulated wind speeds reached 15-20+ m s-1 (~35-45 mph) in the vicinity of Jeongseon and other mountain Olympic locations.  Wind speed observations at nearby Daegwallyeong (north-east of Jeongseon; not shown) peaked around 13 m s-1 (~30 mph) on 11 February, but speeds were most likely stronger in the higher terrain around Jeongseon.  In this particular situation, the higher resolution of the 1-km grid was critical to resolve the fine-scale variations in wind speeds within the complex terrain.


Figure 1.  Twenty-four hour animation of NU-WRF simulated 10-m maximum wind speeds in 30-minute increments, valid from 0000 UTC 11 February through 0000 UTC 12 February 2018.

Meanwhile, the 10-m wind speeds, sensible, and latent heat fluxes are shown in Figure 2, comparing the 9-km model grid simulation with the satellite flux retrievals produced by NASA/SPoRT.  In Figure 2, the retrievals are hourly-averaged composites produced for the ICE-POP campaign, derived from swaths of the constellation of passive microwave satellites.  As the bitter cold Siberian air mass flows over the warmer open waters of the Sea of Japan, Yellow Sea, and western Pacific Ocean, substantial heat and moisture fluxes are directed from the sea surface to the atmosphere.

The 10-m model and retrieved wind speeds both depict a similar broad pattern of high wind speeds up to and exceeding 15 m s-1 across favored corridors downwind of the Korean Peninsula, China, and Russia (Figs. 2a and b).  The model sensible heat flux on the 9-km grid valid at 0600 UTC 12 February (panel c) has a broad pattern similar to the retrieval composite (panel d), but with an axis exceeding 500 W m-2 from the east coast of the Korean Peninsula to central Japan, and a broader amplitude between ~200-400 W m-2, generally higher than the retrievals values  The model latent heat flux (panel e) shows a similar pattern, except for a larger coverage of values exceeding 500 W m-2 between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, and offshore of central and southern Japan.  The maxima offshore of Japan show good agreement between the model and retrieval patterns (panels e and f).

The NU-WRF flux amplitudes are generally higher than that of the retrieval, likely due to several factors such as the retrieval being an hourly-averaged composite compared to instantaneous model fluxes, differences in product resolution, input sea surface temperatures, and model errors in simulated wind speed, and near-surface temperatures and moisture.  Following the Olympics, additional research as part of ICE-POP will involve examining the viability and benefits of assimilating the surface meteorology retrievals into the model for improving the predictions of oceanic heat and moisture transports into the atmosphere and their attendant impacts on air-mass modification.


Figure 2. Comparison between NU-WRF 6-h forecast and passive-microwave hourly-averaged composite retrievals of 10-m wind speed (m s-1), sensible, and latent heat flux (W m-2) valid 0600 UTC 11 February 2018. (a) NU-WRF 10-m wind speed, (b) 10-m wind speed retrieval, (c) NU-WRF sensible heat flux, (d) sensible heat flux retrieval, (e) NU-WRF latent heat flux, and (f) latent heat flux retrieval.

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