The Creation of a High Equivalent Potential Temperature Reservoir in Tropical Storm Humberto (2001) and Its Possible Role in Storm Deepening

Klaus P. Dolling University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii

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Gary M. Barnes University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii

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Abstract

Thirty global positioning system dropwindsondes (GPS sondes) were used to identify and examine the creation of a reservoir of high equivalent potential temperature (θe) in the nascent eye of Tropical Storm Humberto (2001). The θe did not increase in the high surface wind portion of the storm as it does in mature hurricanes; instead air spiraled into the light-wind center of the developing storm where it was trapped by subsidence under a mesoscale convectively generated vortex (MCV). An energy budget revealed that the inflow column took 7 h to reach the storm center during which a combined average surface enthalpy flux of ~230 W m−2 was diagnosed via the bulk aerodynamic equations. This estimate is close to the 250 W m−2 required for balance based on the energy acquired by the column. The high θe in the lowest kilometer, overlain by a near dry-adiabatic layer under the anvil base, resulted in convective available potential energy (CAPE) exceeding 2500 m2 s−2. This conditionally unstable air later served as fuel for the convection within the nascent eyewall. The authors speculate that CAPE of such a large magnitude could accelerate the updraft and stretch the vorticity field, essentially turning garden-variety cumulonimbi into the vortical hot towers argued by several researchers to play a role in tropical cyclone formation and intensification.

Corresponding author address: G. M. Barnes, Department of Meteorology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2525 Correa Rd., Honolulu, HI 96822. E-mail: gbarnes@hawaii.edu

Abstract

Thirty global positioning system dropwindsondes (GPS sondes) were used to identify and examine the creation of a reservoir of high equivalent potential temperature (θe) in the nascent eye of Tropical Storm Humberto (2001). The θe did not increase in the high surface wind portion of the storm as it does in mature hurricanes; instead air spiraled into the light-wind center of the developing storm where it was trapped by subsidence under a mesoscale convectively generated vortex (MCV). An energy budget revealed that the inflow column took 7 h to reach the storm center during which a combined average surface enthalpy flux of ~230 W m−2 was diagnosed via the bulk aerodynamic equations. This estimate is close to the 250 W m−2 required for balance based on the energy acquired by the column. The high θe in the lowest kilometer, overlain by a near dry-adiabatic layer under the anvil base, resulted in convective available potential energy (CAPE) exceeding 2500 m2 s−2. This conditionally unstable air later served as fuel for the convection within the nascent eyewall. The authors speculate that CAPE of such a large magnitude could accelerate the updraft and stretch the vorticity field, essentially turning garden-variety cumulonimbi into the vortical hot towers argued by several researchers to play a role in tropical cyclone formation and intensification.

Corresponding author address: G. M. Barnes, Department of Meteorology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2525 Correa Rd., Honolulu, HI 96822. E-mail: gbarnes@hawaii.edu
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