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Axisymmetric Potential Vorticity Evolution of Hurricane Patricia (2015)

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado
  • | 2 Hurricane Research Division, NOAA/Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, Miami, Florida
  • | 3 U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Monterey, California
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Abstract

Operational numerical models failed to predict the record-setting rapid intensification and rapid overwater weakening of Hurricane Patricia (2015) in the eastern North Pacific basin, resulting in large intensity forecast errors. In an effort to better understand the mesoscale processes contributing to Patricia’s rapid intensity changes, we analyze high-resolution aircraft observations collected on 22–23 October. Spline-based variational analyses are created from observations collected via in situ measurements, Doppler radar, and full-tropospheric dropsonde profiles as part of the Office of Naval Research Tropical Cyclone Intensity (TCI) experiment and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Intensity Forecasting Experiment (IFEX). We present the first full-tropospheric calculation of the dry, axisymmetric Ertel’s potential vorticity (PV) in a tropical cyclone without relying on balance assumptions. Detailed analyses reveal the formation of a “hollow tower” PV structure as Patricia rapidly approached its maximum intensity, and a subsequent breakdown of this structure during Patricia’s rapid overwater weakening phase. Transforming the axisymmetric PV analyses from radius–height to potential radius–isentropic coordinates reveals that Patricia’s rapid intensification was closely related to the distribution of diabatic heating and eddy mixing. During Patricia’s rapid overwater weakening phase, eddy mixing processes are hypothesized to be the primary factor rearranging the PV distribution near the eye–eyewall region, diluting the PV previously confined to the hollow tower while approximately conserving the absolute circulation.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Jonathan Martinez, jon.martinez@colostate.edu

This article is included in the Tropical Cyclone Intensity Experiment (TCI) Special Collection.

Abstract

Operational numerical models failed to predict the record-setting rapid intensification and rapid overwater weakening of Hurricane Patricia (2015) in the eastern North Pacific basin, resulting in large intensity forecast errors. In an effort to better understand the mesoscale processes contributing to Patricia’s rapid intensity changes, we analyze high-resolution aircraft observations collected on 22–23 October. Spline-based variational analyses are created from observations collected via in situ measurements, Doppler radar, and full-tropospheric dropsonde profiles as part of the Office of Naval Research Tropical Cyclone Intensity (TCI) experiment and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Intensity Forecasting Experiment (IFEX). We present the first full-tropospheric calculation of the dry, axisymmetric Ertel’s potential vorticity (PV) in a tropical cyclone without relying on balance assumptions. Detailed analyses reveal the formation of a “hollow tower” PV structure as Patricia rapidly approached its maximum intensity, and a subsequent breakdown of this structure during Patricia’s rapid overwater weakening phase. Transforming the axisymmetric PV analyses from radius–height to potential radius–isentropic coordinates reveals that Patricia’s rapid intensification was closely related to the distribution of diabatic heating and eddy mixing. During Patricia’s rapid overwater weakening phase, eddy mixing processes are hypothesized to be the primary factor rearranging the PV distribution near the eye–eyewall region, diluting the PV previously confined to the hollow tower while approximately conserving the absolute circulation.

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Corresponding author: Jonathan Martinez, jon.martinez@colostate.edu

This article is included in the Tropical Cyclone Intensity Experiment (TCI) Special Collection.

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