A regional hybrid variational–ensemble data assimilation system (HVEDAS), the maximum likelihood ensemble filter (MLEF), is applied to the 2011 version of the NOAA operational Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) model to evaluate the impact of direct assimilation of cloud-affected Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit-A (AMSU-A) radiances in tropical cyclone (TC) core areas. The forward components of both the gridpoint statistical interpolation (GSI) analysis system and the Community Radiative Transfer Model (CRTM) are utilized to process and simulate satellite radiances. The central strategies to allow the use of cloud-affected radiances are (i) to augment the control variables to include clouds and (ii) to add the model cloud representations in the observation forward models to simulate the microwave radiances. The cloudy AMSU-A radiance assimilation in Hurricane Danielle's (2010) core area has produced encouraging results with respect to the operational cloud-cleared radiance preprocessing procedures used in this study. Through the use of the HVEDAS, ensemble covariance statistics for a pseudo-AMSU-A observation in Danielle's core area show physically meaningful error covariances and statistical couplings with hydrometeor variables (i.e., the total-column condensate in Ferrier microphysics). The cloudy radiance assimilation in the TC core region (i.e., ASR experiment) consistently reduced the root-mean-square errors of the background departures, and also generally improved the forecasts of Danielle's intensity as well as the quantitative cloud analysis and prediction. It is also indicated that an entropy-based information content quantification process provides a useful metric for evaluating the utility of satellite observations in hybrid data assimilation.
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