The Role of Tropical Waves in Tropical Cyclogenesis

William M. Frank Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania

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Paul E. Roundy CIRES, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado

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Abstract

This paper analyzes relationships between tropical wave activity and tropical cyclogenesis in all of the earth’s major tropical cyclone basins. Twenty-nine years of outgoing longwave radiation data and global reanalysis winds are filtered and analyzed to determine statistical relationships between wave activity in each basin and the corresponding cyclogenesis. Composite analyses relative to the storm genesis locations show the structures of the waves and their preferred phase relationships with genesis. Five wave types are examined in this study, including mixed Rossby–gravity waves, tropical-depression-type or easterly waves, equatorial Rossby waves, Kelvin waves, and the Madden–Julian oscillation. The latter is not one of the classical tropical wave types, but is a wavelike phenomenon known to have a strong impact on tropical cyclogenesis. Tropical cyclone formation is strongly related to enhanced activity in all of the wave filter bands except for the Kelvin band. In each basin the structure of each composite wave and the phase relationship between the wave and cyclogenesis are similar, suggesting consistent forcing mechanisms. The waves appear to enhance the local circulations by increasing the forced upward vertical motion, increasing the low-level vorticity at the genesis location, and by modulating the vertical shear. Convective anomalies of waves associated with genesis are detectable in the analyses as long as 1 month prior to genesis. This opens up the possibility of developing statistically based genesis forecasts.

Corresponding author address: W. M. Frank, Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, 503 Walker Building, University Park, PA 16803. Email: frank@ems.psu.edu

Abstract

This paper analyzes relationships between tropical wave activity and tropical cyclogenesis in all of the earth’s major tropical cyclone basins. Twenty-nine years of outgoing longwave radiation data and global reanalysis winds are filtered and analyzed to determine statistical relationships between wave activity in each basin and the corresponding cyclogenesis. Composite analyses relative to the storm genesis locations show the structures of the waves and their preferred phase relationships with genesis. Five wave types are examined in this study, including mixed Rossby–gravity waves, tropical-depression-type or easterly waves, equatorial Rossby waves, Kelvin waves, and the Madden–Julian oscillation. The latter is not one of the classical tropical wave types, but is a wavelike phenomenon known to have a strong impact on tropical cyclogenesis. Tropical cyclone formation is strongly related to enhanced activity in all of the wave filter bands except for the Kelvin band. In each basin the structure of each composite wave and the phase relationship between the wave and cyclogenesis are similar, suggesting consistent forcing mechanisms. The waves appear to enhance the local circulations by increasing the forced upward vertical motion, increasing the low-level vorticity at the genesis location, and by modulating the vertical shear. Convective anomalies of waves associated with genesis are detectable in the analyses as long as 1 month prior to genesis. This opens up the possibility of developing statistically based genesis forecasts.

Corresponding author address: W. M. Frank, Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, 503 Walker Building, University Park, PA 16803. Email: frank@ems.psu.edu

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