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Sharanya J. Majumdar
,
Linus Magnusson
,
Peter Bechtold
,
Jean Raymond Bidlot
, and
James D. Doyle

Abstract

Structure and intensity forecasts of 19 tropical cyclones (TCs) during the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season are investigated using two NWP systems. An experimental 4-km global ECMWF model (EC4) with upgraded moist physics is compared with a 9-km version (EC9) to evaluate the influence of resolution. EC4 is then benchmarked against the 4-km regional COAMPS–Tropical Cyclones (COAMPS-TC) system (CO4) to compare systems with similar resolutions. EC4 produced stronger TCs than EC9, with a >30% reduction of the maximum wind speed bias in EC4, resulting in lower forecast errors. However, both ECMWF predictions struggled to intensify initially weak TCs, and the radius of maximum winds (RMW) was often too large. In contrast, CO4 had lower biases in central pressure, maximum wind speed, and RMW. Regardless, minimal statistical differences between CO4 and EC4 intensity errors were found for ≥36-h forecasts. Rapid intensification cases yielded especially large intensity errors. CO4 produced superior forecasts of RMW, together with an excellent pressure–wind relationship. Differences in the results are due to contrasting physics and initialization schemes. ECMWF uses global data assimilation with no special treatment of TCs, whereas COAMPS-TC constructs a vortex for TCs with initial intensity ≥55 kt (∼28 m s−1) based on data provided by forecasters. Two additional ECMWF experiments were conducted. The first yielded improvements when the drag coefficient was reduced at high wind speeds, thereby weakening the coupling between the low-level winds and the surface. The second produced overly intense TCs when explicit deep convection was used, due to unrealistic mid–upper-tropospheric heating.

Significance Statement

Improved forecasts of tropical storms and hurricanes depend on advances in computer weather models. We tested an experimental high-resolution (4 km) version of the global ECMWF model against its 9-km counterpart to evaluate the influence of resolution on storm position and intensity. We also compared this with the 4-km U.S. Navy model, which is designed for tropical storms and hurricanes. Over a 3-month period during the active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, we found that increasing the horizontal resolution improved intensity forecasts. The Navy model forecasts were superior for the radius of maximum winds and had lower intensity biases. Two additional experiments with the ECMWF model revealed the importance of simulating air–sea interaction in high winds and current challenges with explicitly simulating deep thunderstorm clouds in their system.

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Yi Dai
,
Sharanya J. Majumdar
, and
David S. Nolan

Abstract

It is widely known that strong vertical wind shear (exceeding 10 m s−1) often weakens tropical cyclones (TCs). However, in some circumstances, a TC is able to resist this strong shear and even restrengthen. To better understand this phenomenon, a series of idealized simulations are conducted, followed by a statistical investigation of 40 years of Northern Hemisphere TCs. In the idealized simulations, a TC is embedded within a time-varying point-downscaling framework, which is used to gradually increase the environmental vertical wind shear to 14 m s−1 and then hold it constant. This controlled framework also allows for the separation of the TC-induced flow from the prescribed environmental flow. The TC-induced outflow is found to withstand the strong upper-tropospheric environmental flow, and this is manifested in the TC-induced shear difference (TCSD) vector. The TCSD vector, together with the environmental shear vector, defines an azimuthal range within which most of the asymmetric convection is located. The statistical analysis confirms the findings from the idealized simulations, and the results are not strongly sensitive to the TC intensity or basin. Moreover, compared with total shear, the inclusion of TCSD information creates a slightly better correlation with TC intensity change. Overall, the TCSD vector serves as a diagnostic to explain the ability of a TC to resist strong environmental shear through its outflow, and it could potentially be used as a parameter to predict future intensity change.

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Jie Feng
and
Xuguang Wang

Abstract

Although numerous studies have demonstrated that increasing model spatial resolution in free forecasts can potentially improve tropical cyclone (TC) intensity forecasts, studies on the impact of model resolution during data assimilation (DA) on TC prediction are lacking. In this study, using the ensemble-variational DA system for the Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) Model, we investigated the individual impact of increasing the model resolution of first guess (FG) and background ensemble (BE) forecasts during DA on initial analyses and subsequent forecasts of Hurricane Patricia (2015). The impacts were compared between horizontal and vertical resolutions and also between the tropical storm (TS) and hurricane assimilation during Patricia. The results show that increasing the horizontal or vertical resolution in FG has a larger impact than increasing the resolution in BE on improving the analyzed TC intensity and structure for the hurricane stage. The result is reversed for the TS stage. These results are attributed to the effectiveness of increasing the FG resolution in intensifying the background vortex for the hurricane stage relative to the TS stage. Increasing the BE resolution contributes to improving the analyzed intensity through the better-resolved background correlation structure for both the hurricane and TS stages. Increasing horizontal resolution has an overall larger effect than increasing vertical resolution in improving the analysis at the hurricane stage and their effects are close for the analysis at the TS stage. Additionally, the more accurately analyzed primary circulation, secondary circulation, and warm-core structures via the increased resolution in DA lead to improved TC intensity forecasts.

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David R. Ryglicki
,
Daniel Hodyss
, and
Gregory Rainwater

Abstract

The interactions between the outflow of a tropical cyclone (TC) and its background flow are explored using a hierarchy of models of varying complexity. Previous studies have established that, for a select class of TCs that undergo rapid intensification in moderate values of vertical wind shear, the upper-level outflow of the TC can block and reroute the environmental winds, thus reducing the shear and permitting the TC to align and subsequently to intensify. We identify in satellite imagery and reanalysis datasets the presence of tilt nutations and evidence of upwind blocking by the divergent wind field, which are critical components of atypical rapid intensification. We then demonstrate how an analytical expression and a shallow water model can be used to explain some of the structure of upper-level outflow. The analytical expression shows that the dynamic high inside the outflow front is a superposition of two pressure anomalies caused by the outflow’s deceleration by the environment and by the environment’s deceleration by the outflow. The shallow water model illustrates that the blocking is almost entirely dependent upon the divergent component of the wind. Then, using a divergent kinetic energy budget analysis, we demonstrate that, in a full-physics TC, upper-level divergent flow generation occurs in two phases: pressure driven and then momentum driven. The change happens when the tilt precession reaches left of shear. When this change occurs, the outflow blocking extends upshear. We discuss these results with regard to prior severe weather studies.

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Brett T. Hoover
and
Chris S. Velden

Abstract

The adjoint-derived observation impact method is used as a diagnostic to derive the impact of assimilated observations on a metric representing the forecast intensity of a tropical cyclone (TC). Storm-centered composites of observation impact and the model background state are computed across 6-hourly analysis/forecast cycles to compute the composite observation impact throughout the life cycle of Hurricane Joaquin (2015) to evaluate the impact of in situ wind and temperature observations in the upper and lower troposphere, as well as the impact of brightness temperature and precipitable water observations, on intensity forecasts with forecast lengths from 12 to 48 h. The compositing across analysis/forecast cycles allows for the exploration of consistent relationships between the synoptic-scale state of the initial conditions and the impact of observations that are interpreted as flow-dependent interactions between model background bias and correction by assimilated observations on the TC intensity forecast. The track of Hurricane Matthew (2016), with an extended period of time near the coasts of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, allows for a comparison of the impact of aircraft reconnaissance observations with the impact of nearby overland rawinsonde observations available within the same radius of the TC.

Free access
Xu Lu
and
Xuguang Wang

Abstract

Diverse observations, such as the High Definition Sounding System (HDSS) dropsonde observations from the Tropical Cyclone Intensity (TCI) program, the Tail Doppler Radar (TDR), Stepped Frequency Microwave Radiometer (SFMR), and flight-level observations from the Intensity Forecasting Experiment (IFEX) program, and the atmospheric motion vectors (AMVs) from the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) simultaneously depicted the three-dimensional (3D) structure of Hurricane Patricia (2015). Experiments are conducted to understand the relative impacts of each of these observation types on Patricia’s analysis and prediction using the Gridpoint Statistical Interpolation (GSI)-based ensemble-variational data assimilation system for the Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) Model. In comparing the impacts of assimilating each dataset individually, results suggest that 1) the assimilation of 3D observations produces better TC structure analysis than the assimilation of two-dimensional (2D) observations; 2) the analysis from assimilating observations collected from platforms that only sample momentum fields produces a less improved forecast with either short-lived impacts or slower intensity spinup as compared to the forecast produced after assimilating observations collected from platforms that sample both momentum and thermal fields; and 3) the structure forecast tends to benefit more from the assimilation of inner-core observations than the corresponding intensity forecast, which implies better verification metrics are needed for future TC forecast evaluation.

Free access
Russell L. Elsberry
,
Natasha Buholzer
,
Christopher S. Velden
, and
Mary S. Jordan

Abstract

A CIMSS vertical wind shear (VWS-C) dataset based on reprocessed GOES-East atmospheric motion vectors (AMVs) at 15-min intervals has a −0.36 correlation with the CIMSS Satellite Consensus (SATCON) intensity changes at 30-min intervals over the life cycle of Hurricane Joaquin (2015). Correlations are then calculated for four intensity change events including two rapid intensifications (RIs) and two decays, and four intensity change segments immediately before or after these events. During the first RI, the peak intensity increase of 16 kt (6 h)−1 (1 kt ≈ 0.51 m s−1) follows a small VWS-C decrease to a moderate 8 m s−1 value (negative correlation). A 30-h period of continued RI following the first peak RI occurred under moderate magnitude VWS-C (negative correlation), but with a rotation of the VWS-C direction to become more aligned with the southwestward heading of Joaquin. During the second RI, the peak intensity increase of 15 kt (6 h)−1 leads the rapid VWS-C increase (positive correlation), which the horizontal plots of VWS-C vectors demonstrate is related to an upper-tropospheric cyclone to the northeast of Joaquin. A conceptual model of ocean cooling within the anticyclonic track loop is proposed to explain a counterintuitive decreasing intensity when the VWS-C was also decreasing (positive correlation) during the Joaquin track reversal. These alternating negative and positive correlations during the four events and four segments of intensity change demonstrate the nonlinear relationships between the VWS-C and intensity changes during the life cycle of Joaquin that must be understood, analyzed, and modeled to improve tropical cyclone intensity forecasts, and especially RI events.

Free access
T. Connor Nelson
,
Lee Harrison
, and
Kristen L. Corbosiero

Abstract

The newly developed Expendable Digital Dropsondes (XDDs) allow for high spatial and temporal resolution observations of the kinematic and thermodynamic structures in tropical cyclones (TCs). It is important to evaluate both the temporal and spatial autocorrelations within the recorded data to address concerns about spatial interpolation, statistical significance of individual data points, and launch-rate spatial requirements for future dropsonde studies in TCs. Data from 437 XDDs launched into Hurricanes Marty (27–28 September), Joaquin (2–5 October), and Patricia (20–23 October) during the 2015 Tropical Cyclone Intensity (TCI) experiment are used to compute temporal and spatial autocorrelations for vertical velocity, temperature, horizontal wind speed, and equivalent potential temperature. All of the examined variables had temporal autocorrelation scales between approximately 10 and 40 s, with most between 20 and 30 s. Most of the spatial autocorrelation scales were estimated to be 3–10 km. The temporal autocorrelation scales for vertical velocity, horizontal wind speed, and equivalent potential temperature were correlated with updraft depth. Vertical velocity usually had the smallest mean, and median, temporal and estimated spatial autocorrelation scales of approximately 20 s and 3–6 km, respectively. The estimated horizontal scales are below the median sounding spacing and suggest that an increase in the launch rate of the XDDs by a factor of 3–4 from the TCI sampling rate is needed to adequately depict TC kinematics and structure in transects of soundings. The results also indicate that current temporal sampling rates are adequate to depict TC kinematics and structure in a single sounding.

Free access
Robert G. Nystrom
and
Fuqing Zhang

Abstract

Hurricane Patricia (2015) was a record-breaking tropical cyclone that was difficult to forecast in real time by both operational numerical weather prediction models and operational forecasters. The current study examines the potential for improving intensity prediction for extreme cases like Hurricane Patricia. We find that Patricia’s intensity predictability is potentially limited by both initial conditions, related to the data assimilation, and model errors. First, convection-permitting assimilation of airborne Doppler radar radial velocity observations with an ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF) demonstrates notable intensity forecast improvements over assimilation of conventional observations alone. Second, decreasing the model horizontal grid spacing to 1 km and reducing the surface drag coefficient at high wind speed in the parameterization of the sea surface–atmosphere exchanges is also shown to notably improve intensity forecasts. The practical predictability of Patricia, its peak intensity, rapid intensification, and the underlying dynamics are further investigated through a high-resolution 60-member ensemble initialized with realistic initial condition uncertainties represented by the EnKF posterior analysis perturbations. Most of the ensemble members are able to predict the peak intensity of Patricia, but with greater uncertainty in the timing and rate of intensification; some members fail to reach the ultimate peak intensity before making landfall. Ensemble sensitivity analysis shows that initial differences in the region beyond the radius of maximum wind contributes the most to the differences between ensemble members in Patricia’s intensification. Ensemble members with stronger initial primary and secondary circulations beyond the radius of maximum wind intensify earlier, are able to maintain the intensification process for longer, and thus reach a greater and earlier peak intensity.

Free access
Jie Feng
and
Xuguang Wang

Abstract

The dropsondes released during the Tropical Cyclone Intensity (TCI) field campaign provide high-resolution kinematic and thermodynamic measurements of tropical cyclones within the upper-level outflow and inner core. This study investigates the impact of these upper-level TCI dropsondes on analyses and prediction of Hurricane Patricia (2015) during its rapid intensification (RI) phase using an ensemble–variational data assimilation system. In the baseline experiment (BASE), both kinematic and thermodynamic observations of TCI dropsondes at all levels except the upper levels are assimilated. The upper-level wind and thermodynamic observations are assimilated in additional experiments to investigate their respective impacts. Compared to BASE, assimilating TCI upper-level wind observations improves the accuracy of outflow analyses verified against independent atmospheric motion vector (AMV) observations. It also strengthens the tangential and radial wind near the upper-level eyewall. The inertial stability within the upper-level eyewall is enhanced, and the maximum outflow is more aligned toward the inner core. Additionally, the analyses including the upper-level thermodynamic observations produce a warmer and drier core at high levels. Assimilating both upper-level kinematic and thermodynamic observations also improves the RI forecast. Compared to BASE, assimilating the upper-level wind induces more upright and inward-located eyewall convection, resulting in more latent heat release closer to the warm core. This process leads to stronger inner-core warming. Additionally, the initial warmer upper-level inner core produced by assimilating TCI thermodynamic observations also intensifies the convection and latent heat release within the eyewall, thus further contributing to the improved intensity forecasts.

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