Predicting boundary layer clouds is important for the accurate modeling of pollutant dispersion. Higher resolution mesoscale models would be expected to produce better forecasts of cloud properties that affect dispersion. Using ceilometer observations, we assess the skill of two operational mesoscale models (RAMS and WRF) to forecast cloud base altitude and cloud fraction at the Savannah River Site in the southeastern US during the springtime. Verifications were performed at small spatial and temporal scales necessary for dispersion modeling. Both models were unreliable with a 50% (RAMS) and a 46% (WRF) rate of predicting clouds observed by the ceilometer which led to low cloud fraction predictions. Results indicated that WRF better predicted daytime cloud bases from convection that occurred frequently later in the period and RAMS better predicted nighttime cloud bases. Using root mean squared error (RMSE) to score the forecast periods also highlighted this diurnal dichotomy, with WRF scores better during the day and RAMS scores better at night. Analysis of forecast errors revealed divergent model cloud base biases—WRF low and RAMS high. A hybrid solution which weighs more heavily the RAMS nighttime forecasts and WRF daytime forecasts will likely provide the best prediction of cloud properties for dispersion.
- Cloud base
- Cloud forecasting
- Cloud fraction
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Science (miscellaneous)