Monday, July 28, 2008


I have just been perusing the morning sounding data and find that the TWC 1200Z sounding for today - Monday 28 July 2008 - poses a very substantial forecasting dilemma.

The sounding indicates IPW of 1.65" and the SPC analysis of this sounding indicates a forecast CAPE this afternoon of 1180 J/Kg. However, the GPS IPW from FSL indicates that precipitable water is probably between 1.3 to 1.4" - the difference between the sounding value and the GPS value being more than 0.25" - a huge difference and one that could seriously affect the convective forecast. See:

Note that the Td increases substantially between the surface value and the first level of sonde data - this aspect of the TWC soundings has been noted off and on - particularly on calm mornings - for the past several weeks. The Td values from the sonde then decrease nearly linearly to 715 mb, even though the sonde was passing through two elevated, residual boundary layers. The Td trace does not appear to be physically realistic and is probably too wet in each of the residual layers. Thus, I conclude that the Td data are bad and that the atmospere's dewpoint structure is quite different than that measured by the RRS sonde.

The reasons for the questionable data are not clear - but two possibilities come to mind - 1) local conditions on the roof of the NWS building may be affecting the first couple of data points and 2) the RRS sonde humidity sensor for this flight had a slow response time for Td and did not properly respond to Td changes below about 715 mb.

So, one is left wondering exactly what the local conditions might actually have been at the time of the sounding. So it goes.

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