The impact of microphysical schemes on hurricane intensity and track

Wei Kuo Tao, Jainn Jong Shi, Shuyi S. Chen, Stephen Lang, Pay Liam Lin, Song You Hong, Christa Peters-Lidard, Arthur Hou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


During the past decade, both research and operational numerical weather prediction models [e.g. the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF)] have started using more complex microphysical schemes originally developed for high-resolution cloud resolving models (CRMs) with 1-2 km or less horizontal resolutions. WRF is a next-generation meso-scale forecast model and assimilation system. It incorporates a modern software framework, advanced dynamics, numerics and data assimilation techniques, a multiple moveable nesting capability, and improved physical packages. WRF can be used for a wide range of applications, from idealized research to operational forecasting, with an emphasis on horizontal grid sizes in the range of 1-10 km. The current WRF includes several different microphysics options. At NASA Goddard, four different cloud microphysics options have been implemented into WRF. The performance of these schemes is compared to those of the other microphysics schemes available in WRF for an Atlantic hurricane case (Katrina). In addition, a brief review of previous modeling studies on the impact of microphysics schemes and processes on the intensity and track of hurricanes is presented and compared against the current Katrina study. In general, all of the studies show that microphysics schemes do not have a major impact on track forecasts but do have more of an effect on the simulated intensity. Also, nearly all of the previous studies found that simulated hurricanes had the strongest deepening or intensification when using only warm rain physics. This is because all of the simulated precipitating hydrometeors are large raindrops that quickly fall out near the eye-wall region, which would hydrostatically produce the lowest pressure. In addition, these studies suggested that intensities become unrealistically strong when evaporative cooling from cloud droplets and melting from ice particles are removed as this results in much weaker downdrafts in the simulated storms. However, there are many differences between the different modeling studies, which are identified and discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalAsia-Pacific Journal of Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • Hurricane
  • high-resolution modeling
  • microphysics
  • precipitation processes


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