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Potential Vorticity Asymmetries and Tropical Cyclone Evolution in a Moist Three-Layer Model

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  • 1 Meteorological Institute, University of Munich, Munich, Germany
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Abstract

The role of potential vorticity (PV) asymmetries in the evolution of a tropical cyclone is investigated using a three-layer model that includes boundary layer friction, surface moisture fluxes, and a convergence-based convective parameterization. In a benchmark experiment, a symmetric vortex is first spun up on an f plane for 24 h. The symmetric vortex has a realistic structure, including a local PV maximum inside its radius of maximum wind (RMW). A weak azimuthal-wavenumber 2 PV asymmetry confined to the lower two layers of the model is then added to the vortex near the RMW. After an additional 2 h (for a total 26-h simulation), the asymmetric PV anomaly produces changes in the symmetric vortex that have significant differences from those in dry experiments with the present model or previous barotropic studies. A diagnosis of the contributions to changes in the symmetric wind tendency due to the asymmetry confirm the dominance of horizontal eddy fluxes at early times. The barotropic eddy kick provided by the anomaly lasts ∼2 h, which is the damping timescale for the disturbance.

Additional experiments with an imposed isolated double-PV anomaly are made. Contrary to expectation from the dry experiments or barotropic studies, based on arguments involving “wave activity,” moving the anomaly closer to the center of the vortex or farther out does not change the overall evolution of the symmetric vortex. The physical mechanism responsible for the differences between the barotropic studies and those including moist physics as well as for the robustness of the response is established using a budget for the asymmetric vorticity. It is shown that the interactions between the asymmetries and the symmetric hurricane vortex at early times depend on realistic features of the model hurricane and not on interactions between the asymmetries and the boundary layer, which possibly depend on the convective parameterization. In particular, the changes in the symmetric wind tendency due to the asymmetry can be most simply explained by a combination of horizontal advection and damping of wave activity. In conjunction with horizontal advection and damping, the reversal of the radial vorticity gradient associated with the local PV maximum constrains the asymmetries to reduce the symmetric vorticity near the RMW. The location of the PV maximum controls the response to the extent that moving the PV anomaly radially inward or outward has no qualitative effect on the results. The longer-term evolution of the vortex is more problematic and may depend on the convective parameterization used.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Lloyd J. Shapiro, Meteorological Institute, University of Munich, Theresienstr. 37, 80333 Munich, Germany.

Email: shapiro@meteo.physik.uni-muenchen.de

Abstract

The role of potential vorticity (PV) asymmetries in the evolution of a tropical cyclone is investigated using a three-layer model that includes boundary layer friction, surface moisture fluxes, and a convergence-based convective parameterization. In a benchmark experiment, a symmetric vortex is first spun up on an f plane for 24 h. The symmetric vortex has a realistic structure, including a local PV maximum inside its radius of maximum wind (RMW). A weak azimuthal-wavenumber 2 PV asymmetry confined to the lower two layers of the model is then added to the vortex near the RMW. After an additional 2 h (for a total 26-h simulation), the asymmetric PV anomaly produces changes in the symmetric vortex that have significant differences from those in dry experiments with the present model or previous barotropic studies. A diagnosis of the contributions to changes in the symmetric wind tendency due to the asymmetry confirm the dominance of horizontal eddy fluxes at early times. The barotropic eddy kick provided by the anomaly lasts ∼2 h, which is the damping timescale for the disturbance.

Additional experiments with an imposed isolated double-PV anomaly are made. Contrary to expectation from the dry experiments or barotropic studies, based on arguments involving “wave activity,” moving the anomaly closer to the center of the vortex or farther out does not change the overall evolution of the symmetric vortex. The physical mechanism responsible for the differences between the barotropic studies and those including moist physics as well as for the robustness of the response is established using a budget for the asymmetric vorticity. It is shown that the interactions between the asymmetries and the symmetric hurricane vortex at early times depend on realistic features of the model hurricane and not on interactions between the asymmetries and the boundary layer, which possibly depend on the convective parameterization. In particular, the changes in the symmetric wind tendency due to the asymmetry can be most simply explained by a combination of horizontal advection and damping of wave activity. In conjunction with horizontal advection and damping, the reversal of the radial vorticity gradient associated with the local PV maximum constrains the asymmetries to reduce the symmetric vorticity near the RMW. The location of the PV maximum controls the response to the extent that moving the PV anomaly radially inward or outward has no qualitative effect on the results. The longer-term evolution of the vortex is more problematic and may depend on the convective parameterization used.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Lloyd J. Shapiro, Meteorological Institute, University of Munich, Theresienstr. 37, 80333 Munich, Germany.

Email: shapiro@meteo.physik.uni-muenchen.de

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