Evolution of the Surface Wind Field in an Intensifying Tropical Cyclone

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Science, State University of New York at Albany, Albany, NY 12222
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Abstract

The surface wind field in a developing tropical cyclone (Agnes, 1972) was analyzed over a 1660 km radius for four days using conventional surface data, as the storm evolved from a disorganized depression to a hurricane. The transition to hurricane intensity was characterized by a wavelike disturbance propagating inward at 15 m s−1 from the outermost radii to the storm core over a 36-hour period. This propagating disturbance was clearly visible in the radial and vertical motion fields as a surge of inflow and upward motion. Rapid intensification of the storm began within hours after the leading edge of the surge reached the storm center. The analysis of consecutive 12-hour periods without compositing of data from nonsynoptic times was essential for identification of this feature.

The surge had the same asymmetry as the upper-level outflow channel, indicating the possible involvement of the outflow layer in its initiation. No clear evidence of an external forcing mechanism for the surge, such as the passage of an easterly wave across the circulation, could be found. No instability theory could account for propagation of this feature across regions with such strongly varying dynamical properties. As a result, it remains uncertain whether the inflow surge represented an environmental trigger to hurricane formation or a manifestation of an internal instability.

The boundary layer momentum budget was dominated by Coriolis torque and frictional dissipation. The sum of these two terms acted as a momentum source primarily during the passage of the inflow surge across each radial region. Inward lateral flux of momentum contributed significantly only within 440 km of the center.

A distinct diurnal oscillation in pressure tendency occurred until hurricane strength was reached, with maximum deepening at 1200 local time, and minimum deepening at 0000 local time. Diurnal oscillations in other variables were more subtle and often at variance with those described in other tropical cyclones.

Because the inflow surge developed at outer radii 36 hours prior to rapid deepening and had a clear signature in the time change of radial mass flux, it provides a potential tool for forecasting tropical cyclogenesis 24 hours or more in advance which requires only the use of conventional data. More study is needed to determine whether such an early warning signal frequently occurs in intensifying tropical cyclones.

Abstract

The surface wind field in a developing tropical cyclone (Agnes, 1972) was analyzed over a 1660 km radius for four days using conventional surface data, as the storm evolved from a disorganized depression to a hurricane. The transition to hurricane intensity was characterized by a wavelike disturbance propagating inward at 15 m s−1 from the outermost radii to the storm core over a 36-hour period. This propagating disturbance was clearly visible in the radial and vertical motion fields as a surge of inflow and upward motion. Rapid intensification of the storm began within hours after the leading edge of the surge reached the storm center. The analysis of consecutive 12-hour periods without compositing of data from nonsynoptic times was essential for identification of this feature.

The surge had the same asymmetry as the upper-level outflow channel, indicating the possible involvement of the outflow layer in its initiation. No clear evidence of an external forcing mechanism for the surge, such as the passage of an easterly wave across the circulation, could be found. No instability theory could account for propagation of this feature across regions with such strongly varying dynamical properties. As a result, it remains uncertain whether the inflow surge represented an environmental trigger to hurricane formation or a manifestation of an internal instability.

The boundary layer momentum budget was dominated by Coriolis torque and frictional dissipation. The sum of these two terms acted as a momentum source primarily during the passage of the inflow surge across each radial region. Inward lateral flux of momentum contributed significantly only within 440 km of the center.

A distinct diurnal oscillation in pressure tendency occurred until hurricane strength was reached, with maximum deepening at 1200 local time, and minimum deepening at 0000 local time. Diurnal oscillations in other variables were more subtle and often at variance with those described in other tropical cyclones.

Because the inflow surge developed at outer radii 36 hours prior to rapid deepening and had a clear signature in the time change of radial mass flux, it provides a potential tool for forecasting tropical cyclogenesis 24 hours or more in advance which requires only the use of conventional data. More study is needed to determine whether such an early warning signal frequently occurs in intensifying tropical cyclones.

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