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Chanh Q. Kieu
and
Da-Lin Zhang

Abstract

In this study, the roles of merging midlevel mesoscale convective vortices (MCVs) and convectively generated potential vorticity (PV) patches embedded in the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) in determining tropical cyclogenesis are examined by calculating PV and absolute vorticity budgets with a cloud-resolving simulation of Tropical Storm Eugene (2005). Results show that the vortex merger occurs as the gradual capture of small-scale PV patches within a slow-drifting MCV by another fast-moving MCV, thus concentrating high PV near the merger’s circulation center, with its peak amplitude located slightly above the melting level. The merging phase is characterized by sharp increases in surface heat fluxes, low-level convergence, latent heat release (and upward motion), lower tropospheric PV, surface pressure falls, and growth of cyclonic vorticity from the bottom upward. Melting and freezing appear to affect markedly the vertical structures of diabatic heating, convergence, absolute vorticity, and PV, as well the production of PV during the life cycle of Eugene. Results also show significant contributions of the horizontal vorticity to the magnitude of PV and its production within the storm.

The storm-scale PV budgets show that the above-mentioned amplification of PV results partly from the net internal dynamical forcing between the PV condensing and diabatic production and partly from the continuous lateral PV fluxes from the ITCZ. Without the latter, Eugene would likely be shorter lived after the merger under the influence of intense vertical shear and colder sea surface temperatures. The vorticity budget reveals that the storm-scale rotational growth occurs in the deep troposphere as a result of the increased flux convergence of absolute vorticity during the merging phase. Unlike the previously hypothesized downward growth associated with merging MCVs, the most rapid growth rate is found in the bottom layers of the merger because of the frictional convergence. It is concluded that tropical cyclogenesis from merging MCVs occurs from the bottom upward.

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Chanh Q. Kieu
and
Da-Lin Zhang

Abstract

Although tropical cyclogenesis occurs over all tropical warm ocean basins, the eastern Pacific appears to have the highest frequency of tropical cyclogenesis events per unit area. In this study, tropical cyclogenesis from merging mesoscale convective vortices (MCVs) associated with breakdowns of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) is examined. This is achieved through a case study of the processes leading to the genesis of Tropical Storm Eugene (2005) over the eastern Pacific using the National Centers for Environmental Prediction reanalysis, satellite data, and 4-day multinested cloud-resolving simulations with the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) model at the finest grid size of 1.33 km.

Observational analyses reveal the initiations of two MCVs on the eastern ends of the ITCZ breakdowns that occurred more than 2 days and 1000 km apart. The WRF model reproduces their different movements, intensity and size changes, and vortex–vortex interaction at nearly the right timing and location at 39 h into the integration as well as the subsequent track and intensity of the merger in association with the poleward rollup of the ITCZ. Model results show that the two MCVs are merged in a coalescence and capture mode due to their different larger-scale steering flows and sizes. As the two MCVs are being merged, the low- to midlevel potential vorticity and tangential flows increase substantially; the latter occurs more rapidly in the lower troposphere, helping initiate the wind-induced surface heat exchange process leading to the genesis of Eugene with a diameter of 400 km. Subsequently, the merger moves poleward with characters of both MCVs. The simulated tropical storm exhibits many features that are similar to a hurricane, including the warm-cored “eye” and the rotating “eyewall.” It is also shown that vertical shear associated with a midlevel easterly jet leads to the downshear tilt and the wavenumber-1 rainfall structures during the genesis stage, and the upshear generation of moist downdrafts in the vicinity of the eyewall in the minimum equivalent potential temperature layer. Based on the above results, it is concluded that the ITCZ provides a favorable environment with dynamical instability, high humidity, and background vorticity, but it is the merger of the two MCVs that is critical for the genesis of Eugene. The storm decays as it moves northwestward into an environment with increasing vertical shear, dry intrusion, and colder sea surface temperatures. The results appear to have important implications for the high frequency of development of tropical cyclones in the eastern Pacific.

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