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An Observational Case for the Prevalence of Roll Vortices in the Hurricane Boundary Layer

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  • 1 University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii
  • | 2 Hurricane Research Division, NOAA/AOML, Miami, Florida
  • | 3 University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
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Abstract

Doppler velocity data from Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) radars during four hurricane landfalls are analyzed to investigate the presence of organized vortices in the hurricane boundary layer (HBL). The wavelength, depth, magnitude, and track of velocity anomalies were compiled through analysis of Doppler velocity data. The analysis reveals alternating bands of enhanced and reduced azimuthal winds closely aligned with the mean wind direction. Resulting statistics provide compelling evidence for the presence of organized secondary circulations or boundary layer rolls across significant areas during four hurricane landfalls. The results confirm previous observations of the presence of rolls in the HBL. A potential limitation of the study presented here is the resolution of the WSR-88D data. In particular, analysis of higher-resolution data (e.g., from the Doppler on Wheels) is needed to confirm that data aliasing has not unduly impacted the statistics reported here. Momentum fluxes associated with the secondary circulations are estimated using the covariance between the horizontal and vertical components of the wind fluctuations in rolls, with resulting fluxes 2–3 times greater than estimated by parameterizations in numerical weather prediction models. The observational analysis presented here, showing a prevalence of roll vortices in the HBL, has significant implications for the vertical transport of energy in hurricanes, for the character of wind damage, and for improvements in numerical simulations of hurricanes.

Corresponding author address: Steven Businger, Department of Meteorology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2525 Correa Rd., Honolulu, HI 96822. Email: businger@hawaii.edu

Abstract

Doppler velocity data from Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) radars during four hurricane landfalls are analyzed to investigate the presence of organized vortices in the hurricane boundary layer (HBL). The wavelength, depth, magnitude, and track of velocity anomalies were compiled through analysis of Doppler velocity data. The analysis reveals alternating bands of enhanced and reduced azimuthal winds closely aligned with the mean wind direction. Resulting statistics provide compelling evidence for the presence of organized secondary circulations or boundary layer rolls across significant areas during four hurricane landfalls. The results confirm previous observations of the presence of rolls in the HBL. A potential limitation of the study presented here is the resolution of the WSR-88D data. In particular, analysis of higher-resolution data (e.g., from the Doppler on Wheels) is needed to confirm that data aliasing has not unduly impacted the statistics reported here. Momentum fluxes associated with the secondary circulations are estimated using the covariance between the horizontal and vertical components of the wind fluctuations in rolls, with resulting fluxes 2–3 times greater than estimated by parameterizations in numerical weather prediction models. The observational analysis presented here, showing a prevalence of roll vortices in the HBL, has significant implications for the vertical transport of energy in hurricanes, for the character of wind damage, and for improvements in numerical simulations of hurricanes.

Corresponding author address: Steven Businger, Department of Meteorology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2525 Correa Rd., Honolulu, HI 96822. Email: businger@hawaii.edu

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