This study uses a recently-developed trajectory model to trace eyewall updrafts in a high-resolution Hurricane Wilma (2005) prediction to their roots in the maritime boundary layer (MBL) in order to better understand their thermodynamics and how they interact with the swirling winds. Out of 97020 4-h backward trajectories seeded from the upper troposphere, the 45% of them originating from the MBL are stratified into five subsamples binned by peak vertical velocity (wMAX). Of particular interest are the thermodynamic characteristics of parcels belonging to the wMAX-Extreme subsample, i.e. those with wMAX exceeding 20 m s-1, that ascend through Wilma’s strongest convective burst (CB) cores. A vertical momentum budget computed along a selected wMAX-Extreme trajectory confirms that the parcel possesses large positive buoyancy that more than compensates for negative hydrometeor loading to yield an upper-tropospheric wMAX ~ 30 m s-1. Comparing all 1170 wMAX-Extreme trajectories with all 19296 secondary circulation trajectories shows that the former tend to originate from the MBL where equivalent potential temperature (θe) and ocean surface heat and moisture fluxes are locally enhanced. The wMAX-Extreme parcels become further differentiated from the background ascent in terms of their (i) greater updraft width and smaller θe reduction while ascending into the midtroposphere, implying lower environmental entrainment rates, and (ii) less hydrometeor loading in the z = 3-5 km layer. The Lagrangian analysis herein bridges two previous studies that focused separately on the importance of high SSTs and fusion latent heat release to the development of CBs, the latter of which may facilitate upper-level warm core development through their compensating subsidence.

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Current afflitation: Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies (CIMMS), University of Oklahoma, National Severe Storms Lab (NSSL), 120 David L. Boren Blvd. Suite 2100, Norman, Oklahoma 73072-7304, Tel: (405) 325-3041, Fax: (405) 325-3098. Email: william.miller@noaa.gov