Convectively Coupled Kelvin Waves and Tropical Cyclogenesis: Connections through Convection and Moisture

Quinton A. Lawton aRosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science, University of Miami, Miami, Florida

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Sharanya J. Majumdar aRosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science, University of Miami, Miami, Florida

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Abstract

Recent research has demonstrated a relationship between convectively coupled Kelvin waves (CCKWs) and tropical cyclogenesis, likely due to the influence of CCKWs on the large-scale environment. However, it remains unclear which environmental factors are most important and how they connect to TC genesis processes. Using a 39-yr database of African easterly waves (AEWs) to create composites of reanalysis and satellite data, it is shown that genesis may be facilitated by CCKW-driven modifications to convection and moisture. First, stand-alone composites of genesis demonstrate the significant role of environmental preconditioning and convective aggregation. A moist static energy variance budget indicates that convective aggregation during genesis is dominated by feedbacks between convection and longwave radiation. These processes begin over two days prior to genesis, supporting previous observational work. Shifting attention to CCKWs, up to 76% of developing AEWs encounter at least one CCKW in their lifetime. An increase in genesis events following convectively active CCKW phases is found, corroborating earlier studies. A decrease in genesis events following convectively suppressed phases is also identified. Using CCKW-centered composites, we show that the convectively active CCKW phases enhance convection and moisture content in the vicinity of AEWs prior to genesis. Furthermore, enhanced convective activity is the main discriminator between AEW–CCKW interactions that result in genesis versus those that do not. This analysis suggests that CCKWs may influence genesis through environmental preconditioning and radiative–convective feedbacks, among other factors. A secondary finding is that AEW attributes as far east as central Africa may be predictive of downstream genesis.

Significance Statement

The purpose of this work is to investigate how one type of atmospheric wave, known as convectively coupled Kelvin waves (CCKWs), impacts the formation (“genesis”) of tropical cyclones. Forecasting of genesis remains a significant challenge, so identifying how CCKWs influence this process could help improve forecasts and give communities greater lead times. Our results show that CCKWs could temporarily make genesis more likely by increasing atmospheric moisture content and convective activity. While not all CCKWs lead to genesis, those that do are associated with a particularly strong increase in convection. This provides a potential tool for forecasters monitoring CCKWs and TC genesis in real time and motivates follow-up work on this topic in numerical models.

© 2023 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Quinton A. Lawton, quinton.lawton@earth.miami.edu

Abstract

Recent research has demonstrated a relationship between convectively coupled Kelvin waves (CCKWs) and tropical cyclogenesis, likely due to the influence of CCKWs on the large-scale environment. However, it remains unclear which environmental factors are most important and how they connect to TC genesis processes. Using a 39-yr database of African easterly waves (AEWs) to create composites of reanalysis and satellite data, it is shown that genesis may be facilitated by CCKW-driven modifications to convection and moisture. First, stand-alone composites of genesis demonstrate the significant role of environmental preconditioning and convective aggregation. A moist static energy variance budget indicates that convective aggregation during genesis is dominated by feedbacks between convection and longwave radiation. These processes begin over two days prior to genesis, supporting previous observational work. Shifting attention to CCKWs, up to 76% of developing AEWs encounter at least one CCKW in their lifetime. An increase in genesis events following convectively active CCKW phases is found, corroborating earlier studies. A decrease in genesis events following convectively suppressed phases is also identified. Using CCKW-centered composites, we show that the convectively active CCKW phases enhance convection and moisture content in the vicinity of AEWs prior to genesis. Furthermore, enhanced convective activity is the main discriminator between AEW–CCKW interactions that result in genesis versus those that do not. This analysis suggests that CCKWs may influence genesis through environmental preconditioning and radiative–convective feedbacks, among other factors. A secondary finding is that AEW attributes as far east as central Africa may be predictive of downstream genesis.

Significance Statement

The purpose of this work is to investigate how one type of atmospheric wave, known as convectively coupled Kelvin waves (CCKWs), impacts the formation (“genesis”) of tropical cyclones. Forecasting of genesis remains a significant challenge, so identifying how CCKWs influence this process could help improve forecasts and give communities greater lead times. Our results show that CCKWs could temporarily make genesis more likely by increasing atmospheric moisture content and convective activity. While not all CCKWs lead to genesis, those that do are associated with a particularly strong increase in convection. This provides a potential tool for forecasters monitoring CCKWs and TC genesis in real time and motivates follow-up work on this topic in numerical models.

© 2023 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Quinton A. Lawton, quinton.lawton@earth.miami.edu
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