How Do Outer Spiral Rainbands Affect Tropical Cyclone Structure and Intensity?

Yuqing Wang International Pacific Research Center, and Department of Meteorology, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii

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Abstract

A long-standing issue on how outer spiral rainbands affect the structure and intensity of tropical cyclones is studied through a series of numerical experiments using the cloud-resolving tropical cyclone model TCM4. Because diabatic heating due to phase changes is the main driving force of outer spiral rainbands, their effect on the tropical cyclone structure and intensity is evaluated by artificially modifying the heating and cooling rate due to cloud microphysical processes in the model. The view proposed here is that the effect of diabatic heating in outer spiral rainbands on the storm structure and intensity results mainly from hydrostatic adjustment; that is, heating (cooling) of an atmospheric column decreases (increases) the surface pressure underneath the column. The change in surface pressure due to heating in the outer spiral rainbands is significant on the inward side of the rainbands where the inertial stability is generally high. Outside the rainbands in the far field, where the inertial stability is low and internal atmospheric heating is mostly lost to gravity wave radiation and little is left to warm the atmospheric column and lower the local surface pressure, the change in surface pressure is relatively small. This strong radially dependent response reduces the horizontal pressure gradient across the radius of maximum wind and thus the storm intensity in terms of the maximum low-level tangential wind while increasing the inner-core size of the storm.

The numerical results show that cooling in the outer spiral rainbands maintains both the intensity of a tropical cyclone and the compactness of its inner core, whereas heating in the outer spiral rainbands decreases the intensity but increases the size of a tropical cyclone. Overall, the presence of strong outer spiral rainbands limits the intensity of a tropical cyclone. Because heating or cooling in the outer spiral rainbands depends strongly on the relative humidity in the near-core environment, the results have implications for the formation of the annular hurricane structure, the development of concentric eyewalls, and the size change in tropical cyclones.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Yuqing Wang, SOEST/IPRC, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2525 Correa Rd., Honolulu, HI 96822. Email: yuqing@hawaii.edu

Abstract

A long-standing issue on how outer spiral rainbands affect the structure and intensity of tropical cyclones is studied through a series of numerical experiments using the cloud-resolving tropical cyclone model TCM4. Because diabatic heating due to phase changes is the main driving force of outer spiral rainbands, their effect on the tropical cyclone structure and intensity is evaluated by artificially modifying the heating and cooling rate due to cloud microphysical processes in the model. The view proposed here is that the effect of diabatic heating in outer spiral rainbands on the storm structure and intensity results mainly from hydrostatic adjustment; that is, heating (cooling) of an atmospheric column decreases (increases) the surface pressure underneath the column. The change in surface pressure due to heating in the outer spiral rainbands is significant on the inward side of the rainbands where the inertial stability is generally high. Outside the rainbands in the far field, where the inertial stability is low and internal atmospheric heating is mostly lost to gravity wave radiation and little is left to warm the atmospheric column and lower the local surface pressure, the change in surface pressure is relatively small. This strong radially dependent response reduces the horizontal pressure gradient across the radius of maximum wind and thus the storm intensity in terms of the maximum low-level tangential wind while increasing the inner-core size of the storm.

The numerical results show that cooling in the outer spiral rainbands maintains both the intensity of a tropical cyclone and the compactness of its inner core, whereas heating in the outer spiral rainbands decreases the intensity but increases the size of a tropical cyclone. Overall, the presence of strong outer spiral rainbands limits the intensity of a tropical cyclone. Because heating or cooling in the outer spiral rainbands depends strongly on the relative humidity in the near-core environment, the results have implications for the formation of the annular hurricane structure, the development of concentric eyewalls, and the size change in tropical cyclones.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Yuqing Wang, SOEST/IPRC, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2525 Correa Rd., Honolulu, HI 96822. Email: yuqing@hawaii.edu

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