Convectively Coupled Kelvin Waves and Tropical Cyclogenesis in a Semi-Lagrangian Framework

Carl J. Schreck III North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies, North Carolina State University, Asheville, North Carolina

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Abstract

This study examines how convectively coupled Kelvin waves interact with the semi-Lagrangian circulation of easterly waves to modulate tropical cyclogenesis. Recent studies have shown that fewer tropical cyclones form in the three days before passage of the Kelvin wave’s peak convection and more develop in the three days thereafter. Separately, other studies have identified the recirculation of moisture and vorticity within easterly waves using a semi-Lagrangian frame of reference. That framework is achieved by subtracting the easterly wave phase speed from the earth-relative winds. This study combines these recent findings by testing whether the equatorial westerlies from Kelvin waves can help close the semi-Lagrangian circulation.

Past studies have shown that Kelvin waves tilt westward with height in the troposphere such that equatorial westerlies build upward from the surface in the days following the convective peak. This study shows that the easterly wave’s semi-Lagrangian closed circulation grows upward as it intersects the Kelvin wave’s westward tilt. The Kelvin wave’s westerly anomalies reach 500 hPa about three days after the convection has passed, which establishes the deep, vertically aligned easterly wave vortex necessary for tropical cyclogenesis. This study focuses on the eastern Pacific, but similar results are found for the North Atlantic. In other basins, the Kelvin wave accentuates the westerlies from the Madden–Julian oscillation and/or the monsoon trough. Given that Kelvin waves often last weeks and circumnavigate the globe, these results may advance long-range tropical cyclogenesis forecasting.

Corresponding author address: Carl J. Schreck III, North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies (NCICS), 151 Patton Ave., Asheville, NC 28801. E-mail: cjschrec@ncsu.edu

Abstract

This study examines how convectively coupled Kelvin waves interact with the semi-Lagrangian circulation of easterly waves to modulate tropical cyclogenesis. Recent studies have shown that fewer tropical cyclones form in the three days before passage of the Kelvin wave’s peak convection and more develop in the three days thereafter. Separately, other studies have identified the recirculation of moisture and vorticity within easterly waves using a semi-Lagrangian frame of reference. That framework is achieved by subtracting the easterly wave phase speed from the earth-relative winds. This study combines these recent findings by testing whether the equatorial westerlies from Kelvin waves can help close the semi-Lagrangian circulation.

Past studies have shown that Kelvin waves tilt westward with height in the troposphere such that equatorial westerlies build upward from the surface in the days following the convective peak. This study shows that the easterly wave’s semi-Lagrangian closed circulation grows upward as it intersects the Kelvin wave’s westward tilt. The Kelvin wave’s westerly anomalies reach 500 hPa about three days after the convection has passed, which establishes the deep, vertically aligned easterly wave vortex necessary for tropical cyclogenesis. This study focuses on the eastern Pacific, but similar results are found for the North Atlantic. In other basins, the Kelvin wave accentuates the westerlies from the Madden–Julian oscillation and/or the monsoon trough. Given that Kelvin waves often last weeks and circumnavigate the globe, these results may advance long-range tropical cyclogenesis forecasting.

Corresponding author address: Carl J. Schreck III, North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies (NCICS), 151 Patton Ave., Asheville, NC 28801. E-mail: cjschrec@ncsu.edu
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