Steve Albers' Research Projects
The LAPS system has been actively developed by NOAA & CIRA between 1988 and 2014. Even though development work at these institutions had stopped by 2015, I still like to work with it for various reasons. LAPS continues to be used operationally in the AWIPS system in NWS forecast offices, and for research and operations in a number of institutions in the U.S and around the world. The cloud analysis has characteristics yet to be implemented in other NOAA systems, such as a capability to use GOES-16 data and produce 500m resolution 5-minute update cloud fields that are consistent with visible and IR satellite, radar, METARs and other observational data. The radar reflectivity forecasts from 0-2 hours also show a more realistic skill score evolution with a peak at 0 hours and generally trailing off from there, following the theoretical predictability vs time relationships fairly closely. Hopefully these capabilities (and the variational cloud improvements mentioned below) can be transitioned into other NOAA systems such as the regional FV3 and/or Warn On Forecast (WoF).
The Simulated Weather Imagery (SWIM) package can be run to yield interesting (often remarkably close) comparisons between these analyses and simultaneous ground-based all-sky camera images. Both the cloud analysis and SWIM package are housed in the LAPS software distribution, though are modular enough to be used in other modeling systems.
Variational Cloud Analysis
There are plans to further improve the cloud analysis in a variational context, again in ways that aren't yet represented in NOAA's models.
This would entail a 4D variational analysis that directly uses visible and IR radiance information (e.g. with sub-kilometer resolution at a 1-minute cadence) solving for evolving 3-D cloud (and wind) fields from cameras, satellites, and radars in a tomographic fashion.
We can thus variationally "diagnose" clouds by looking at multiply scattered light from different vantage points in an approach having some similarities to medical X-rays. Since the light scatters throughout the interior of the clouds, the observed radiance provides information on the cloud optical and microphysical charasterics, such as optical thickness and liquid water content. A video that helps explain these concepts can be found here: