Atmospheric and seeing forecast: WRF model validation with in situ measurements at ORM

Trinquet, H.; Varela, A. M.; Muñoz-Tuñón, C.; Vázquez-Ramió, H.; Vernin, J.; Giordano, C.
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Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 430, Issue 4, p.3102-3111

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We present a comparison between in situ measurements and forecasted data at the Observatorio del Roque de Los Muchachos. Forecasting is obtained with the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model associated with a turbulence parametrization which follows Trinquet-Vernin model. The purpose of this study is to validate the capability of the WRF model to forecast the atmospheric and optical conditions (seeing and related adaptive optics parameters). The final aim is to provide a tool to optimize the observing time in the observatories, the so-called flexible scheduling. More than 4500 h of simulations above Observatorio del Roque de Los Muchachos (ORM) site with WRF in 2009 were calculated, and compared with data acquired during 2009 with Automatic Weather Station, Differential Image Motion Monitor and Multiple Aperture Scintillation Sensor. Each simulation corresponds to a 24h in advance forecasting with one predicted value each hour. Comparison shows that WRF forecasting agrees well with the effective meteorological parameters at ground level, such as pressure (within a scatter σP = 1.1 hPa), temperature (σT = 2 K), wind speed (σ|V| = 3.9 m s-1) and relative humidity (σ _{R_h}=18.9 per cent). Median precipitable water vapour content above the ORM predicted by WRF in 2009 is 3 mm, close to 3.8 mm reported in the literature over the period 2001-2008. For what concern optical parameters (seeing, coherence time, isoplanatic angle), WRF forecasting are in good agreement on nightly or monthly basis, better than random or carbon-copy tries. We hope to improve these results with a better vertical and horizontal grid resolution. Our method is robust enough to be applied to potential astronomical sites, where no instruments are available.