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Zhuo Wang, M. T. Montgomery, and T. J. Dunkerton

Abstract

The formation of pre–Hurricane Felix (2007) in a tropical easterly wave is examined in a two-part study using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model with a high-resolution nested grid configuration that permits the representation of cloud system processes. The simulation commences during the wave stage of the precursor African easterly-wave disturbance. Here the simulated and observed developments are compared, while in of the study various large-scale analyses, physical parameterizations, and initialization times are explored to document model sensitivities.

In this first part the authors focus on the wave/vortex morphology, its interaction with the adjacent intertropical convergence zone complex, and the vorticity balance in the neighborhood of the developing storm. Analysis of the model simulation points to a bottom-up development process within the wave critical layer and supports the three new hypotheses of tropical cyclone formation proposed recently by Dunkerton, Montgomery, and Wang. It is shown also that low-level convergence associated with the ITCZ helps to enhance the wave signal and extend the “wave pouch” from the jet level to the top of the atmospheric boundary layer. The region of a quasi-closed Lagrangian circulation within the wave pouch provides a focal point for diabatic merger of convective vortices and their vortical remnants. The wave pouch serves also to protect the moist air inside from dry air intrusion, providing a favorable environment for sustained deep convection. Consistent with the authors’ earlier findings, the tropical storm forms near the center of the wave pouch via system-scale convergence in the lower troposphere and vorticity aggregation. Components of the vorticity balance are shown to be scale dependent, with the immediate effects of cloud processes confined more closely to the storm center than the overturning Eliassen circulation induced by diabatic heating, the influence of which extends to larger radii.

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Zhuo Wang, M. T. Montgomery, and T. J. Dunkerton

Abstract

This is the second of a two-part study examining the simulated formation of Atlantic Hurricane Felix (2007) in a cloud-representing framework. Here several open issues are addressed concerning the formation of the storm’s warm core, the evolution and respective contribution of stratiform versus convective precipitation within the parent wave’s pouch, and the sensitivity of the development pathway reported in to different model physics options and initial conditions. All but one of the experiments include ice microphysics as represented by one of several parameterizations, and the partition of convective versus stratiform precipitation is accomplished using a standard numerical technique based on the high-resolution control experiment.

The transition to a warm-core tropical cyclone from an initially cold-core, lower tropospheric wave disturbance is analyzed first. As part of this transformation process, it is shown that deep moist convection is sustained near the pouch center. Both convective and stratiform precipitation rates increase with time. While stratiform precipitation occupies a larger area even at the tropical storm stage, deep moist convection makes a comparable contribution to the total rain rate at the pregenesis stage, and a larger contribution than stratiform processes at the storm stage. The convergence profile averaged near the pouch center is found to become dominantly convective with increasing deep moist convective activity there. Low-level convergence forced by interior diabatic heating plays a key role in forming and intensifying the near-surface closed circulation, while the midlevel convergence associated with stratiform precipitation helps to increase the midlevel circulation and thereby contributes to the formation and upward extension of a tropospheric-deep cyclonic vortex.

Sensitivity tests with different model physics options and initial conditions demonstrate a similar pregenesis evolution. These tests suggest that the genesis location of a tropical storm is largely controlled by the parent wave’s critical layer, whereas the genesis time and intensity of the protovortex depend on the details of the mesoscale organization, which is less predictable. Some implications of the findings are discussed.

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Chanh Q. Kieu and Da-Lin Zhang

Abstract

In this study, a series of sensitivity simulations is performed to examine the processes leading to the genesis of Tropical Storm Eugene (2005) from merging vortices associated with the breakdowns of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) over the eastern Pacific. This is achieved by removing or modifying one of the two vortices in the model initial conditions or one physical process during the model integration using the results presented in and as a control run. Results reveal that while the ITCZ breakdowns and subsequent poleward rollup (through a continuous potential vorticity supply) provide favorable conditions for the genesis of Eugene, the vortex merger is the most effective process in transforming weak tropical disturbances into a tropical storm. The sensitivity experiments confirm the authors’ previous conclusions that Eugene would not reach its observed tropical storm intensity in the absence of the merger and would become much shorter lived without the potential vorticity supply from the ITCZ.

It is found that the merging process is sensitive not only to larger-scale steering flows but also to the intensity of their associated cyclonic circulations and frictional convergence. When one of the vortices is initialized at a weaker intensity, the two vortices bifurcate in track and fail to merge. The frictional convergence in the boundary layer appears to play an important role in accelerating the mutual attraction of the two vortices leading to their final merger. It is also found from simulations with different storm realizations that the storm-scale cyclonic vorticity grows at the fastest rate in the lowest layers, regardless of the merger, because of the important contribution of the convergence associated with the boundary layer friction and latent heating.

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R. A. Hansell, S. C. Tsay, Q. Ji, N. C. Hsu, M. J. Jeong, S. H. Wang, J. S. Reid, K. N. Liou, and S. C. Ou

Abstract

In September 2006, NASA Goddard’s mobile ground-based laboratories were deployed to Sal Island in Cape Verde (16.73°N, 22.93°W) to support the NASA African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analysis (NAMMA) field study. The Atmospheric Emitted Radiance Interferometer (AERI), a key instrument for spectrally characterizing the thermal IR, was used to retrieve the dust IR aerosol optical depths (AOTs) in order to examine the diurnal variability of airborne dust with emphasis on three separate dust events. AERI retrievals of dust AOT are compared with those from the coincident/collocated multifilter rotating shadowband radiometer (MFRSR), micropulse lidar (MPL), and NASA Cloud–Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) sensors. The retrieved AOTs are then inputted into the Fu–Liou 1D radiative transfer model to evaluate local instantaneous direct longwave radiative effects (DRELW) of dust at the surface in cloud-free atmospheres and its sensitivity to dust microphysical parameters. The top-of-atmosphere DRELW and longwave heating rate profiles are also evaluated. Instantaneous surface DRELW ranges from 2 to 10 W m−2 and exhibits a strong linear dependence with dust AOT yielding a DRELW of 16 W m−2 per unit dust AOT. The DRELW is estimated to be ∼42% of the diurnally averaged direct shortwave radiative effect at the surface but of opposite sign, partly compensating for the shortwave losses. Certainly nonnegligible, the authors conclude that DRELW can significantly impact the atmospheric energetics, representing an important component in the study of regional climate variation.

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Syed Ismail, Richard A. Ferrare, Edward V. Browell, Gao Chen, Bruce Anderson, Susan A. Kooi, Anthony Notari, Carolyn F. Butler, Sharon Burton, Marta Fenn, Jason P. Dunion, Gerry Heymsfield, T. N. Krishnamurti, and Mrinal K. Biswas

Abstract

The Lidar Atmospheric Sensing Experiment (LASE) on board the NASA DC-8 measured high-resolution profiles of water vapor and aerosols, and cloud distributions in 14 flights over the eastern North Atlantic during the NASA African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analyses (NAMMA) field experiment. These measurements were used to study African easterly waves (AEWs), tropical cyclones (TCs), and the Saharan air layer (SAL). These LASE measurements represent the first simultaneous water vapor and aerosol lidar measurements to study the SAL and its interactions with AEWs and TCs. Three case studies were selected for detailed analysis: (i) a stratified SAL, with fine structure and layering (unlike a well-mixed SAL), (ii) a SAL with high relative humidity (RH), and (iii) an AEW surrounded by SAL dry air intrusions. Profile measurements of aerosol scattering ratios, aerosol extinction coefficients, aerosol optical thickness, water vapor mixing ratios, RH, and temperature are presented to illustrate their characteristics in the SAL, convection, and clear air regions. LASE extinction-to-backscatter ratios for the dust layers varied from 35 ± 5 to 45 ± 5 sr, well within the range of values determined by other lidar systems. LASE aerosol extinction and water vapor profiles are validated by comparison with onboard in situ aerosol measurements and GPS dropsonde water vapor soundings, respectively. An analysis of LASE data suggests that the SAL suppresses low-altitude convection. Midlevel convection associated with the AEW and transport are likely responsible for high water vapor content observed in the southern regions of the SAL on 20 August 2008. This interaction is responsible for the transfer of about 7 × 1015 J (or 8 × 103 J m−2) latent heat energy within a day to the SAL. Initial modeling studies that used LASE water vapor profiles show sensitivity to and improvements in model forecasts of an AEW.

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Scott A. Braun, Michael T. Montgomery, Kevin J. Mallen, and Paul D. Reasor

Abstract

Several hypotheses have been put forward for the mechanisms of generation of surface circulation associated with tropical cyclones. This paper examines high-resolution simulations of Tropical Storm Gert (2005), which formed in the Gulf of Mexico during NASA’s Tropical Cloud Systems and Processes Experiment, to investigate the development of low-level circulation and its relationship to the precipitation evolution. Two simulations are examined: one that better matches available observations but underpredicts the storm’s minimum sea level pressure and a second one that somewhat overintensifies the storm but provides a set of simulations that encapsulates the overall genesis and development characteristics of the observed storm. The roles of convective and stratiform precipitation processes within the mesoscale precipitation systems that formed Gert are discussed. During 21–25 July, two episodes of convective system development occurred. In each, precipitation system evolution was characterized by intense and deep convective upward motions followed by increasing stratiform-type vertical motions (upper-level ascent, low-level descent). Potential vorticity (PV) in convective regions was strongest at low levels while stratiform-region PV was strongest at midlevels, suggesting that convective processes acted to spin up lower levels prior to the spinup of middle levels by stratiform processes. Intense vortical hot towers (VHTs) were prominent features of the low-level cyclonic vorticity field. The most prominent PV anomalies persisted more than 6 h and were often associated with localized minima in the sea level pressure field. A gradual aggregation of the cyclonic PV occurred as existing VHTs near the center continually merged with new VHTs, gradually increasing the mean vorticity near the center. Nearly concurrently with this VHT-induced development, stratiform precipitation processes strongly enhanced the mean inflow and convergence at middle levels, rapidly increasing the midlevel vorticity. However, the stratiform vertical motion profile is such that while it increases midlevel vorticity, it decreases vorticity near the surface as a result of low-level divergence. Consequently, the results suggest that while stratiform precipitation regions may significantly increase cyclonic circulation at midlevels, convective vortex enhancement at low to midlevels is likely necessary for genesis.

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Stephen R. Guimond, Gerald M. Heymsfield, and F. Joseph Turk

Abstract

A synthesis of remote sensing and in situ observations throughout the life cycle of Hurricane Dennis (2005) during the NASA Tropical Cloud Systems and Processes (TCSP) experiment is presented. Measurements from the ER-2 Doppler radar (EDOP), the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU), airborne radiometer, and flight-level instruments are used to provide a multiscale examination of the storm. The main focus is an episode of deep convective bursts (“hot towers”) occurring during a mature stage of the storm and preceding a period of rapid intensification (11-hPa pressure drop in 1 h 35 min). The vigorous hot towers penetrated to 16-km height, had maximum updrafts of 20 m s−1 at 12–14-km height, and possessed a strong transverse circulation through the core of the convection. Significant downdrafts (maximum of 10–12 m s−1) on the flanks of the updrafts were observed, with their cumulative effects hypothesized to result in the observed increases in the warm core. In one ER-2 overpass, subsidence was transported toward the eye by 15–20 m s−1 inflow occurring over a deep layer (0.5–10 km) coincident with a hot tower.

Fourier analysis of the AMSU satellite measurements revealed a large shift in the storm’s warm core structure, from asymmetric to axisymmetric, ∼12 h after the convective bursts began. In addition, flight-level wind calculations of the axisymmetric tangential velocity and inertial stability showed a contraction of the maximum winds and an increase in the stiffness of the vortex, respectively, after the EDOP observations.

The multiscale observations presented here reveal unique, ultra-high-resolution details of hot towers and their coupling to the parent vortex, the balanced dynamics of which can be generally explained by the axisymmetrization and efficiency theories.

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Gerald M. Heymsfield, Lin Tian, Andrew J. Heymsfield, Lihua Li, and Stephen Guimond

Abstract

This paper presents observations of deep convection characteristics in the tropics and subtropics that have been classified into four categories: tropical cyclone, oceanic, land, and sea breeze. Vertical velocities in the convection were derived from Doppler radar measurements collected during several NASA field experiments from the nadir-viewing high-altitude ER-2 Doppler radar (EDOP). Emphasis is placed on the vertical structure of the convection from the surface to cloud top (sometimes reaching 18-km altitude). This unique look at convection is not possible from other approaches such as ground-based or lower-altitude airborne scanning radars. The vertical motions from the radar measurements are derived using new relationships between radar reflectivity and hydrometeor fall speed. Various convective properties, such as the peak updraft and downdraft velocities and their corresponding altitude, heights of reflectivity levels, and widths of reflectivity cores, are estimated. The most significant findings are the following: 1) strong updrafts that mostly exceed 15 m s−1, with a few exceeding 30 m s−1, are found in all the deep convection cases, whether over land or ocean; 2) peak updrafts were almost always above the 10-km level and, in the case of tropical cyclones, were closer to the 12-km level; and 3) land-based and sea-breeze convection had higher reflectivities and wider convective cores than oceanic and tropical cyclone convection. In addition, the high-resolution EDOP data were used to examine the connection between reflectivity and vertical velocity, for which only weak linear relationships were found. The results are discussed in terms of dynamical and microphysical implications for numerical models and future remote sensors.

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Chuntao Liu, Earle R. Williams, Edward J. Zipser, and Gary Burns

Abstract

The long-standing mainstay of support for C. T. R. Wilson’s global circuit hypothesis is the similarity between the diurnal variation of thunderstorm days in universal time and the Carnegie curve of electrical potential gradient. This rough agreement has sustained the widespread view that thunderstorms are the “batteries” for the global electrical circuit. This study utilizes 10 years of Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) observations to quantify the global occurrence of thunderstorms with much better accuracy and to validate the comparison by F. J. W. Whipple 80 years ago. The results support Wilson’s original ideas that both thunderstorms and electrified shower clouds contribute to the DC global circuit by virtue of negative charge carried downward by precipitation. First, the precipitation features (PFs) are defined by grouping the pixels with rain using 10 years of TRMM observations. Thunderstorms are identified from these PFs with lightning flashes observed by the Lightning Imaging Sensor. PFs without lightning flashes but with a 30-dBZ radar echo-top temperature lower than −10°C over land and −17°C over ocean are selected as possibly electrified shower clouds. The universal diurnal variation of rainfall, the raining area from the thunderstorms, and possibly electrified shower clouds in different seasons are derived and compared with the diurnal variations of the electric field observed at Vostok, Antarctica. The result shows a substantially better match from the updated diurnal variations of the thunderstorm area to the Carnegie curve than Whipple showed. However, to fully understand and quantify the amount of negative charge carried downward by precipitation in electrified storms, more observations of precipitation current in different types of electrified shower clouds are required.

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Robert Cifelli, Timothy Lang, Steven A. Rutledge, Nick Guy, Edward J. Zipser, Jon Zawislak, and Robert Holzworth

Abstract

The evolution of an African easterly wave is described using ground-based radar and ancillary datasets from three locations in West Africa: Niamey, Niger (continental), Dakar, Senegal (coastal), and Praia, Republic of Cape Verde (oceanic). The data were collected during the combined African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analyses (AMMA) and NASA AMMA (NAMMA) campaigns in August–September 2006.

Two precipitation events originated within the wave circulation and propagated with the wave across West Africa. Mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) associated with these events were identified at all three sites ahead of, within, and behind the 700-mb wave trough. An additional propagating event was indentified that originated east of the wave and moved through the wave circulation. The MCS activity associated with this event did not show any appreciable change resulting from its interaction with the wave. The MCS characteristics at each site were different, likely due to a combination of life cycle effects and changes in relative phasing between the propagating systems and the position of low-level convergence and thermodynamic instability associated with the wave. At the ocean and coastal sites, the most intense convection occurred ahead of the wave trough where both high CAPE and low-level convergence were concentrated. At the continental site, convection was relatively weak owing to the fact that the wave dynamics and thermodynamics were not in sync when the systems passed through Niamey. The only apparent effect of the wave on MCS activity at the continental site was to extend the period of precipitation activity during one of the events that passed through coincident with the 700-mb wave trough. Convective organization at the land sites was primarily in the form of squall lines and linear MCSs oriented perpendicular to the low-level shear. The organization at the oceanic site was more complicated, transitioning from linear MCSs to widespread stratiform cloud with embedded convection. The precipitation activity was also much longer lived at the oceanic site due to the wave becoming nearly stationary near the Cape Verdes, providing an environment supportive of deep convection for an extended period.

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