Knievel, JC, Rife, DL, Grim, JA, Hahmann, AN, Hacker, JP, Ge, M, Fisher, HH (2010). A Simple Technique for Creating Regional Composites of Sea Surface Temperature from MODIS for Use in Operational Mesoscale NWP. JOURNAL OF APPLIED METEOROLOGY AND CLIMATOLOGY, 49(11), 2267-2284.
This paper describes a simple technique for creating regional, high-resolution, daytime and nighttime composites of sea surface temperature (SST) for use in operational numerical weather prediction (NWP). The composites are based on observations from NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard Aqua and Terra. The data used typically are available nearly in real time, are applicable anywhere on the globe, and are capable of roughly representing the diurnal cycle in SST. The composites' resolution is much higher than that of many other standard SST products used for operational NWP, including the low-and high-resolution Real-Time Global (RTG) analyses. The difference in resolution is key because several studies have shown that highly resolved SSTs are important for driving the air-sea interactions that shape patterns of static stability, vertical and horizontal wind shear, and divergence in the planetary boundary layer. The MODIS-based composites are compared to in situ observations from buoys and other platforms operated by the National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) off the coasts of New England, the mid-Atlantic, and Florida. Mean differences, mean absolute differences, and root-mean-square differences between the composites and the NDBC observations are all within tenths of a degree of those calculated between RTG analyses and the NDBC observations. This is true whether or not one accounts for the mean offset between the skin temperatures of the MODIS dataset and the bulk temperatures of the NDBC observations and RTG analyses. Near the coast, the MODIS-based composites tend to agree more with NDBC observations than do the RTG analyses. The opposite is true away from the coast. All of these differences in point-wise comparisons among the SST datasets are small compared to the +/- 1.0 degrees C accuracy of the NDBC SST sensors. Because skin-temperature variations from land to water so strongly affect the development and life cycle of the sea breeze, this phenomenon was chosen for demonstrating the use of the MODIS-based composite in an NWP model. A simulated sea breeze in the vicinity of New York City and Long Island shows a small, net, but far from universal improvement when MODIS-based composites are used in place of RTG analyses. The timing of the sea breeze's arrival is more accurate at some stations, and the near-surface temperature, wind, and humidity within the breeze are more realistic.