Using High-Resolution NSRDB Data to Evaluate Cloud Mask Forecast from WRF-Solar EPS

Jaemo Yang, Manajit Sengupta, Yu Xie, Aron Habte, Pedro Jimenez, Ju-Hye Kim

Research output: NRELPoster


Validating spatiotemporal distributions of cloud forecasts using numerical weather prediction (NWP) models is difficult as this requires high-quality cloud-property at significantly high spatial and temporal resolution over extended periods of time. Observations of cloud properties, such as cloud mask, cloud optical thickness, and cloud type, are vital for assessing the capability of NWP models to forecast various types of clouds. Using the National Solar Radiation Database (NSRDB), this research evaluates ensemble cloud-mask predictions from the WRF-Solar ensemble prediction system (WRF-Solar EPS). From the WRF-Solar EPS, day-ahead solar forecasts for the contiguous United States (CONUS) for 2018 are simulated. Given the NSRDB data is accessible at a resolution of 2 km, we can calculate the cloud fraction across the 9-km grid of WRF-Solar EPS. This allows us to spatially assess the cloud-mask forecasts using two methods against the high-resolution NSRDB: (a) considering all 2-km NSRDB clouds in the forecast domain (EMAll), and (b) using a minimum cloud fraction threshold of 50% to designate a pixel as cloudy (EMP50). The low-resolution cloud masks from WRF-Solar EPS are evaluated directly against the cloud-resolving scale gridded observations from NSRDB using EMAll. With EMP50, we presume that scenes with less than 50% cloud cover from the 2-km NSRDB are clear. Thus, this assessment approach allows for a fair comparison with WRF-Solar EPS resolved to a 9-km grid. A method of point-by-point verification is used to evaluate dichotomous (yes/no) cloud mask predictions against the NSRDB. For each pixel of model extent, cloud frequency and traditional metrics (e.g., probability of detection, false alarm rate, and hit rate, etc.) are computed and compared with satellite-derived data sets. Mismatched cloud frequency (MCF) is computed to measure the present capability of WRF-Solar EPS in representing various types of clouds, which are categorized using three levels of cloud top height (CTH) and cloud optical depth (COD) across entire CONUS. Preliminary results show that the WRF-Solar EPS provides MCF values ranging from 9% to 46%, 16% to 33%, and 8% to 27% for low-level, middle-level, and high-level clouds, respectively, for three CTHs. The model produces MCFs ranging from 27% to 46%, 13% to 34%, and 8% to 19% for thin, medium-thickness, and thick clouds, respectively, for three CODs. The presentation will include a detailed description of the current outcomes as well as potential future extensions. The evaluation approach established in this study is readily extensible to the evaluation of cloud predictions from different ensemble NWP models. In addition, the findings of the suggested evaluation technique aid in identifying model weaknesses and will ultimately lead to advances in WRF-Solar EPS's skill in predicting clouds and solar irradiance.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePresented at the PV Performance Modeling and Monitoring Workshop, 9-10 May 2023, Salt Lake City, Utah

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-5D00-86181


  • cloud mask forecast
  • ensemble forecast
  • WRF-Solar
  • WRF-Solar EPS


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