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The Structure and Evolution of Hurricane Elena (1985). Part I: Symmetric Intensification

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  • 1 Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, The University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, New York
  • | 2 Hurricane Research Division, NOAA/AOML, Miami, Florida
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Abstract

One of the most complete aircraft reconnaissance and ground-based radar datasets of a single tropical cyclone was recorded in Hurricane Elena (1985) as it made a slow, 3-day anticyclonic loop in the Gulf of Mexico. Eighty-eight radial legs and 47 vertical incidence scans were collected aboard NOAA WP-3D aircraft, and 1142 ground-based radar scans were made of Elena’s eyewall and inner rainbands as the storm intensified from a disorganized category 2 to an intense category 3 hurricane. This large amount of continuously collected data made it possible to examine changes that occurred in Elena’s inner-core symmetric structure as the storm intensified.

On the first day of study, Elena was under the influence of vertical wind shear from an upper-tropospheric trough to the west. The storm was disorganized, with no discernable eyewall and nearly steady values of tangential wind and relative vorticity. Early on the second day of study, a near superposition and constructive interference occurred between the trough and Elena, coincident with upward vertical velocities and the radial gradient of reflectivity becoming concentrated around the 30-km radius. Once an inner wind maximum and eyewall developed, the radius of maximum winds contracted and a sharp localized vorticity maximum emerged, with much lower values on either side. This potentially unstable vorticity profile was accompanied by a maximum in equivalent potential temperature in the eyewall, deeper and stronger inflow out to 24 km from the eyewall, and mean outflow toward the eyewall from the eye.

Within 6–12 h, intensification came to an end and Elena began to slowly weaken. Vorticity and equivalent potential temperature at 850 hPa showed indications of prior mixing between the eye and eyewall. During the weakening stage, an outflow jet developed at the eyewall radius. A strong 850-hPa updraft accompanied the outflow jet, yet convection was less active aloft than before. This feature appeared to represent a shallow, outward-sloping updraft channel associated with the spindown of the storm.

Corresponding author address: Kristen L. Corbosiero, Dept. of Earth and Atmospheric Science, The University at Albany, State University of New York, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12222. Email: kristen@atmos.albany.edu

Abstract

One of the most complete aircraft reconnaissance and ground-based radar datasets of a single tropical cyclone was recorded in Hurricane Elena (1985) as it made a slow, 3-day anticyclonic loop in the Gulf of Mexico. Eighty-eight radial legs and 47 vertical incidence scans were collected aboard NOAA WP-3D aircraft, and 1142 ground-based radar scans were made of Elena’s eyewall and inner rainbands as the storm intensified from a disorganized category 2 to an intense category 3 hurricane. This large amount of continuously collected data made it possible to examine changes that occurred in Elena’s inner-core symmetric structure as the storm intensified.

On the first day of study, Elena was under the influence of vertical wind shear from an upper-tropospheric trough to the west. The storm was disorganized, with no discernable eyewall and nearly steady values of tangential wind and relative vorticity. Early on the second day of study, a near superposition and constructive interference occurred between the trough and Elena, coincident with upward vertical velocities and the radial gradient of reflectivity becoming concentrated around the 30-km radius. Once an inner wind maximum and eyewall developed, the radius of maximum winds contracted and a sharp localized vorticity maximum emerged, with much lower values on either side. This potentially unstable vorticity profile was accompanied by a maximum in equivalent potential temperature in the eyewall, deeper and stronger inflow out to 24 km from the eyewall, and mean outflow toward the eyewall from the eye.

Within 6–12 h, intensification came to an end and Elena began to slowly weaken. Vorticity and equivalent potential temperature at 850 hPa showed indications of prior mixing between the eye and eyewall. During the weakening stage, an outflow jet developed at the eyewall radius. A strong 850-hPa updraft accompanied the outflow jet, yet convection was less active aloft than before. This feature appeared to represent a shallow, outward-sloping updraft channel associated with the spindown of the storm.

Corresponding author address: Kristen L. Corbosiero, Dept. of Earth and Atmospheric Science, The University at Albany, State University of New York, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12222. Email: kristen@atmos.albany.edu

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