Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Mercer, Andrew

Committee Member

Dyer, Jamie

Committee Member

Brown, Michael

Committee Member

Zhang, Song

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Geosciences


The use of numerical weather prediction (NWP) has brought significant improvements to severe weather outbreak forecasting; however, determination of the primary mode of severe weather (in particular tornadic and nontornadic outbreaks) continues to be a challenge. Uncertainty in model runs contributes to forecasting difficulty; therefore it is beneficial to a forecaster to understand the sources and magnitude of uncertainty in a severe weather forecast. This research examines the impact of data assimilation, microphysics parameterizations, and planetary boundary layer (PBL) physics parameterizations on severe weather forecast accuracy and model variability, both at a mesoscale and synoptic-scale level. NWP model simulations of twenty United States tornadic and twenty nontornadic outbreaks are generated. In the first research phase, each case is modeled with three different modes of data assimilation and a control. In the second phase, each event is modeled with 15 combinations of physics parameterizations: five microphysics and three PBL, all of which were designed to perform well in convective weather situations. A learning machine technique known as a support vector machine (SVM) is used to predict outbreak mode for each run for both the data assimilated model simulations and the different parameterization simulations. Parameters determined to be significant for outbreak discrimination are extracted from the model simulations and input to the SVM, which issues a diagnosis of outbreak type (tornadic or nontornadic) for each model run. In the third phase, standard synoptic parameters are extracted from the model simulations and a k-means cluster analysis is performed on tornadic and nontornadic outbreak data sets to generate synoptically distinct clusters representing atmospheric conditions found in each type of outbreak. Variations among the synoptic features in each cluster are examined across the varied physics parameterization and data assimilation runs. Phase I found that conventional and HIRS-4 radiance assimilation performs best of all examined assimilation variations by lowering false alarm ratios relative to other runs. Phase II found that the selection of PBL physics produces greater spread in the SVM classification ability. Phase III found that data assimilation generates greater model changes in the strength of synoptic-scale features than either microphysics or PBL physics parameterization.



mesoscale meteorology||support vector machines||data assimilation||planetary boundary layer physics||microphysics||model parameterization||convective weather||severe weather||Numerical weather prediction||synoptic meteorology