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Numerical Simulations of Air–Sea Interaction under High Wind Conditions Using a Coupled Model: A Study of Hurricane Development

J-W. BaoCooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, and NOAA/Environmental Technology Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

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J. M. WilczakNOAA/Environmental Technology Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

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J-K. ChoiDepartment of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado

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L. H. KanthaDepartment of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado

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Abstract

In this study, a coupled atmosphere–ocean wave modeling system is used to simulate air–sea interaction under high wind conditions. This coupled modeling system is made of three well-tested model components: The Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research regional atmospheric Mesoscale Model, the University of Colorado version of the Princeton Ocean Model, and the ocean surface gravity wave model developed by the Wave Model Development and Implementation Group. The ocean model is initialized using a 9-month spinup simulation forced by 6-hourly wind stresses and with assimilation of satellite sea surface temperature (SST) and altimetric data into the model. The wave model is initialized using a zero wave state. The scenario in which the study is carried out is the intensification of a simulated hurricane passing over the Gulf of Mexico. The focus of the study is to evaluate the impact of sea spray, mixing in the upper ocean, warm-core oceanic eddies shed by the Gulf Loop Current, and the sea surface wave field on hurricane development, especially the intensity.

The results from the experiments with and without sea spray show that the inclusion of sea spray evaporation can significantly increase hurricane intensity in a coupled air–sea model when the part of the spray that evaporates is only a small fraction of the total spray mass. In this case the heat required for spray evaporation comes from the ocean. When the fraction of sea spray that evaporates increases, so that the evaporation extracts heat from the atmosphere and cools the lower atmospheric boundary layer, the impact of sea spray evaporation on increasing hurricane intensity diminishes.

It is shown that the development of the simulated hurricane is dependent on the location and size of a warm-core anticyclonic eddy shed by the Loop Current. The eddy affects the timing, rate, and duration of hurricane intensification. This dependence occurs in part due to changes in the translation speed of the hurricane, with a slower-moving hurricane being more sensitive to a warm-core eddy. The feedback from the SST change in the wake of the simulated hurricane is negative so that a reduction of SST results in a weaker-simulated hurricane than that produced when SST is held unchanged during the simulation. The degree of surface cooling is strongly dependent on the initial oceanic mixed layer (OML) depth. It is also found in this study that in order to obtain a realistic thermodynamic state of the upper ocean and not distort the evolution of the OML structure during data assimilation, care must be taken in the data assimilation procedure so as not to interfere with the turbulent dynamics of the OML.

Compared with the sensitivity to the initial OML depth and the location and intensity of the warm eddy associated with the loop current, the model is found to be less sensitive to the wave-age-dependent roughness length.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Jian-Wen Bao, NOAA/ETL, Mail Stop ET7, 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80303-3328.

Email: jbao@etl.noaa.gov

Abstract

In this study, a coupled atmosphere–ocean wave modeling system is used to simulate air–sea interaction under high wind conditions. This coupled modeling system is made of three well-tested model components: The Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research regional atmospheric Mesoscale Model, the University of Colorado version of the Princeton Ocean Model, and the ocean surface gravity wave model developed by the Wave Model Development and Implementation Group. The ocean model is initialized using a 9-month spinup simulation forced by 6-hourly wind stresses and with assimilation of satellite sea surface temperature (SST) and altimetric data into the model. The wave model is initialized using a zero wave state. The scenario in which the study is carried out is the intensification of a simulated hurricane passing over the Gulf of Mexico. The focus of the study is to evaluate the impact of sea spray, mixing in the upper ocean, warm-core oceanic eddies shed by the Gulf Loop Current, and the sea surface wave field on hurricane development, especially the intensity.

The results from the experiments with and without sea spray show that the inclusion of sea spray evaporation can significantly increase hurricane intensity in a coupled air–sea model when the part of the spray that evaporates is only a small fraction of the total spray mass. In this case the heat required for spray evaporation comes from the ocean. When the fraction of sea spray that evaporates increases, so that the evaporation extracts heat from the atmosphere and cools the lower atmospheric boundary layer, the impact of sea spray evaporation on increasing hurricane intensity diminishes.

It is shown that the development of the simulated hurricane is dependent on the location and size of a warm-core anticyclonic eddy shed by the Loop Current. The eddy affects the timing, rate, and duration of hurricane intensification. This dependence occurs in part due to changes in the translation speed of the hurricane, with a slower-moving hurricane being more sensitive to a warm-core eddy. The feedback from the SST change in the wake of the simulated hurricane is negative so that a reduction of SST results in a weaker-simulated hurricane than that produced when SST is held unchanged during the simulation. The degree of surface cooling is strongly dependent on the initial oceanic mixed layer (OML) depth. It is also found in this study that in order to obtain a realistic thermodynamic state of the upper ocean and not distort the evolution of the OML structure during data assimilation, care must be taken in the data assimilation procedure so as not to interfere with the turbulent dynamics of the OML.

Compared with the sensitivity to the initial OML depth and the location and intensity of the warm eddy associated with the loop current, the model is found to be less sensitive to the wave-age-dependent roughness length.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Jian-Wen Bao, NOAA/ETL, Mail Stop ET7, 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80303-3328.

Email: jbao@etl.noaa.gov

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