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Prediction and Diagnosis of Tropical Cyclone Formation in an NWP System. Part I: The Critical Role of Vortex Enhancement in Deep Convection

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  • 1 Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • 2 Department of Meteorology, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, and Hurricane Research Division, NOAA/AOML, Miami, Florida
  • 3 Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Abstract

This is the first of a three-part investigation into tropical cyclone (TC) genesis in the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s Tropical Cyclone Limited Area Prediction System (TC-LAPS), an operational numerical weather prediction (NWP) forecast model. The primary TC-LAPS vortex enhancement mechanism is presented in Part I, the entire genesis process is illustrated in Part II using a single TC-LAPS simulation, and in Part III a number of simulations are presented exploring the sensitivity and variability of genesis forecasts in TC-LAPS.

The primary vortex enhancement mechanism in TC-LAPS is found to be convergence/stretching and vertical advection of absolute vorticity in deep intense updrafts, which result in deep vortex cores of 60–100 km in diameter (the minimum resolvable scale is limited by the 0.15° horizontal grid spacing). On the basis of the results presented, it is hypothesized that updrafts of this scale adequately represent mean vertical motions in real TC genesis convective regions, and perhaps that explicitly resolving the individual convective processes may not be necessary for qualitative TC genesis forecasts. Although observations of sufficient spatial and temporal resolution do not currently exist to support or refute this proposition, relatively large-scale (30 km and greater), lower- to midlevel tropospheric convergent regions have been observed in tropical oceanic environments during the Global Atmospheric Research Programme (GARP) Atlantic Tropical Experiment (GATE), the Equatorial Mesoscale Experiment (EMEX), and the Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Response Experiment (TOGA COARE), and regions of extreme convection of the order of 50 km are often (remotely) observed in TC genesis environments. These vortex cores are fundamental for genesis in TC-LAPS. They interact to form larger cores, and provide net heating that drives the system-scale secondary circulation, which enhances vorticity on the system scale akin to the classical Eliassen problem of a balanced vortex driven by heat sources. These secondary vortex enhancement mechanisms are documented in Part II.

In some recent TC genesis theories featured in the literature, vortex enhancement in deep convective regions of mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) has largely been ignored. Instead, they focus on the stratiform regions. While it is recognized that vortex enhancement through midlevel convergence into the stratiform precipitation deck can greatly enhance midtropospheric cyclonic vorticity, it is suggested here that this mechanism only increases the potential for genesis, whereas vortex enhancement through low- to midlevel convergence into deep convective regions is necessary for genesis.

Corresponding author address: K. J. Tory, Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre, GPO Box 1289, Melbourne, VIC, 3001, Australia. Email: k.tory@bom.gov.au

Abstract

This is the first of a three-part investigation into tropical cyclone (TC) genesis in the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s Tropical Cyclone Limited Area Prediction System (TC-LAPS), an operational numerical weather prediction (NWP) forecast model. The primary TC-LAPS vortex enhancement mechanism is presented in Part I, the entire genesis process is illustrated in Part II using a single TC-LAPS simulation, and in Part III a number of simulations are presented exploring the sensitivity and variability of genesis forecasts in TC-LAPS.

The primary vortex enhancement mechanism in TC-LAPS is found to be convergence/stretching and vertical advection of absolute vorticity in deep intense updrafts, which result in deep vortex cores of 60–100 km in diameter (the minimum resolvable scale is limited by the 0.15° horizontal grid spacing). On the basis of the results presented, it is hypothesized that updrafts of this scale adequately represent mean vertical motions in real TC genesis convective regions, and perhaps that explicitly resolving the individual convective processes may not be necessary for qualitative TC genesis forecasts. Although observations of sufficient spatial and temporal resolution do not currently exist to support or refute this proposition, relatively large-scale (30 km and greater), lower- to midlevel tropospheric convergent regions have been observed in tropical oceanic environments during the Global Atmospheric Research Programme (GARP) Atlantic Tropical Experiment (GATE), the Equatorial Mesoscale Experiment (EMEX), and the Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Response Experiment (TOGA COARE), and regions of extreme convection of the order of 50 km are often (remotely) observed in TC genesis environments. These vortex cores are fundamental for genesis in TC-LAPS. They interact to form larger cores, and provide net heating that drives the system-scale secondary circulation, which enhances vorticity on the system scale akin to the classical Eliassen problem of a balanced vortex driven by heat sources. These secondary vortex enhancement mechanisms are documented in Part II.

In some recent TC genesis theories featured in the literature, vortex enhancement in deep convective regions of mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) has largely been ignored. Instead, they focus on the stratiform regions. While it is recognized that vortex enhancement through midlevel convergence into the stratiform precipitation deck can greatly enhance midtropospheric cyclonic vorticity, it is suggested here that this mechanism only increases the potential for genesis, whereas vortex enhancement through low- to midlevel convergence into deep convective regions is necessary for genesis.

Corresponding author address: K. J. Tory, Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre, GPO Box 1289, Melbourne, VIC, 3001, Australia. Email: k.tory@bom.gov.au

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