How an uncertain short-wave perturbation on the North Atlantic wave guide affects the forecast of an intense Mediterranean cyclone (Medicane Zorbas)

Portmann, Raphael; González-Alemán, Juan Jesús; Sprenger, Michael; Wernli, Heini

Mediterranean cyclogenesis is known to be frequently linked to ridge building over the North Atlantic and subsequent anticyclonic Rossby wave breaking over Europe. But understanding of how this linkage affects the medium-range forecast uncertainty of Mediterranean cyclones is limited, as previous predictability studies have mainly focused on the relatively rare cases of Mediterranean cyclogenesis preceded by upstream extratropical transition of tropical cyclones. This study exploits a European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) operational ensemble forecast with an uncertain potential vorticity (PV) streamer position over the Mediterranean that, 3 d after initialization, resulted in an uncertain development of the Mediterranean tropical-like cyclone (Medicane) Zorbas in September 2018. Later initializations showed substantially lower forecast uncertainties over the Mediterranean. An ad hoc clustering of the ensemble members according to the PV streamer position in the Mediterranean is used to study the upstream evolution of the synoptic to mesoscale forecast uncertainties. Cluster differences show that forecast uncertainties were amplified on the stratospheric side of a jet streak over the North Atlantic during the first day of the ensemble prediction. Subsequently, they propagated downstream and were further amplified within a short-wave perturbation along the wave guide, superimposed onto the large-scale Rossby wave pattern. After 3 d, the uncertainties reached the Mediterranean, where they resulted in a large spread in the position of the PV streamer. These uncertainties further translated into uncertainties in the position and thermal structure of the Mediterranean cyclone. In particular, the eastward displacement of the PV streamer in more than a third of the ensemble members resulted in a very different cyclone scenario. In this scenario, cyclogenesis occurred earlier than in the other members in connection to a pre-existing surface trough over the Levantine Sea. These cyclones did not develop the deep warm core typical of medicanes. It is proposed that the eastward-shifted cyclogenesis resulted in reduced values of low-level equivalent potential temperature in the cyclogenesis area. As a result, latent heating was not intense and deep enough to erode the upper-level PV anomaly and allow the formation of a deep warm core. The westward displacement led to surface cyclones that were too weak, and a medicane formed in only half of the members. The central, i.e. correct, PV streamer position resulted in the most accurate forecasts with a strong medicane in most members. This study is the first that explicitly investigates the impact of PV streamer position uncertainty for medicane development. Overall, results extend current knowledge of the role of upstream uncertainties in the medium-range predictability and unsteady forecast behavior of Mediterranean cyclones including medicanes.

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Portmann, Raphael / González-Alemán, Juan Jesús / Sprenger, Michael / et al: How an uncertain short-wave perturbation on the North Atlantic wave guide affects the forecast of an intense Mediterranean cyclone (Medicane Zorbas). 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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