Development and verification of a real-time stochastic precipitation nowcasting system for urban hydrology in Belgium
Abstract. The Short-Term Ensemble Prediction System (STEPS) is implemented in real-time at the Royal Meteorological Institute (RMI) of Belgium. The main idea behind STEPS is to quantify the forecast uncertainty by adding stochastic perturbations to the deterministic Lagrangian extrapolation of radar images. The stochastic perturbations are designed to account for the unpredictable precipitation growth and decay processes and to reproduce the dynamic scaling of precipitation fields, i.e., the observation that large-scale rainfall structures are more persistent and predictable than small-scale convective cells. This paper presents the development, adaptation and verification of the STEPS system for Belgium (STEPS-BE). STEPS-BE provides in real-time 20-member ensemble precipitation nowcasts at 1 km and 5 min resolutions up to 2 h lead time using a 4 C-band radar composite as input. In the context of the PLURISK project, STEPS forecasts were generated to be used as input in sewer system hydraulic models for nowcasting urban inundations in the cities of Ghent and Leuven. Comprehensive forecast verification was performed in order to detect systematic biases over the given urban areas and to analyze the reliability of probabilistic forecasts for a set of case studies in 2013 and 2014. The forecast biases over the cities of Leuven and Ghent were found to be small, which is encouraging for future integration of STEPS nowcasts into the hydraulic models. Probabilistic forecasts of exceeding 0.5 mm h−1 are reliable up to 60–90 min lead time, while the ones of exceeding 5.0 mm h−1 are only reliable up to 30 min. The STEPS ensembles are slightly under-dispersive and represent only 75–90 % of the forecast errors.