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Kurt F. Brueske and Christopher S. Velden

Abstract

Satellite-borne passive microwave radiometers, such as the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU) on the NOAA polar-orbiting series, are well suited to monitor tropical cyclones (TCs) by virtue of their ability to assess changes in tropospheric warm core structure in the presence of clouds. The temporal variability in TC upper-tropospheric warm anomaly (UTWA) size, structure, and magnitude provides vital information on changes in kinematic structure and minimum sea level pressure (MSLP) through well-established thermodynamic and dynamic principles. This study outlines the aspects of several factors affecting the effective AMSU measurement accuracy of UTWAs, including the practical application of a previously developed maximum likelihood regression algorithm designed to explicitly correct for TC scan geometry and UTWA–antenna gain pattern interaction issues (UTWA subsampling) unique to TC warm core applications. This single-channel AMSU approach (54.96 GHz) is the first step toward a more elaborate multichannel application that is currently under study. Independent application of the single-channel algorithm in the Atlantic and eastern Pacific basins in 2000 and 2001 demonstrates that AMSU-derived UTWAs are moderately correlated with coincident TC MSLP. In addition, further improvements in correlation, and MSLP estimate accuracy, are possible through application of the proposed corrective retrieval algorithm, provided that 1) accurate estimates of TC eye size (a proxy for the UTWA horizontal dimension) are available and 2) the peak upper-tropospheric warming represented by the AMSU-A 54.94-GHz radiances corresponds with the actual TC thermal structure. This study recommends potential remedies for both of these algorithm skill prerequisites that include the incorporation of improved eye size estimates from ancillary data sources and/or the utilization of additional AMSU-A upper-tropospheric sounding channels.

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Jason P. Dunion and Christopher S. Velden

A deep well-mixed, dry adiabatic layer forms over the Sahara Desert and Shale regions of North Africa during the late spring, summer, and early fall. As this air mass advances westward and emerges from the northwest African coast, it is undercut by cool, moist low-level air and becomes the Saharan air layer (SAL). The SAL contains very dry air and substantial mineral dust lifted from the arid desert surface over North Africa, and is often associated with a midlevel easterly jet. A temperature inversion occurs at the base of the SAL where very warm Saharan air overlies relatively cooler air above the ocean surface. Recently developed multispectral Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) infrared imagery detects the SAL's entrained dust and dry air as it moves westward over the tropical Atlantic. This imagery reveals that when the SAL engulfs tropical waves, tropical disturbances, or preexisting tropical cyclones (TCs), its dry air, temperature inversion, and strong vertical wind shear (associated with the midlevel easterly jet) can inhibit their ability to strengthen. The SAL's influence on TCs may be a factor in the TC intensity forecast problem in the Atlantic and may also contribute to this ocean basin's relatively reduced level of TC activity.

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Robert T. Merrill and Christopher S. Velden

Abstract

Isentropic coordinate analyses of rawinsondes and cloud motion wind vectors derived from geostationary satellite imagery are employed to describe the three-dimensional upper-tropospheric and lower-stratospheric circulation attending western North Pacific Supertyphoon Flo during September 1990. Outflow from the storm is concentrated in several evolving channels in the horizontal. In terms of vertical structure, net outflow evaluated at 6° latitude (666 km) radius is found to occur at higher levels and over an increasing range of potential temperature θ as the tropical cyclone intensifies. Outflow on the equatorward side of the tropical cyclone tends to occur at greater θ values (higher altitudes) than poleward outflow. Potential vorticity also decreases within the corresponding isentropic layers associated with the outflow. The implications of the vertical variability of outflow structure in terms of the interactions between storm and environment, and effects on storm structural changes, are considered briefly.

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Timothy L. Olander and Christopher S. Velden

Abstract

The advanced Dvorak technique (ADT) is used operationally by tropical cyclone forecast centers worldwide to help estimate the intensity of tropical cyclones (TCs) from operational geostationary meteorological satellites. New enhancements to the objective ADT have been implemented by the algorithm development team to further expand its capabilities and precision. The advancements include the following: 1) finer tuning to aircraft-based TC intensity estimates in an expanded development sample, 2) the incorporation of satellite-based microwave information into the intensity estimation scheme, 3) more sophisticated automated TC center-fixing routines, 4) adjustments to the intensity estimates for subtropical systems and TCs undergoing extratropical transition, and 5) addition of a surface wind radii estimation routine. The goals of these upgrades and others are to provide TC analysts/forecasters with an expanded objective guidance tool to more accurately estimate the intensity of TCs and those storms forming from, or converting into, hybrid/nontropical systems. The 2018 TC season is used to illustrate the performance characteristics of the upgraded ADT.

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Anthony J. Wimmers and Christopher S. Velden

Abstract

Conventional methods of viewing and combining retrieved geophysical fields from polar-orbiting satellites often complicate the work of end users because of the erratic time differences between overpasses, the significant time gaps between elements of a composite image, or simply the different requirements for interpretation between contributing instruments. However, it is possible to mitigate these issues for any number of retrieved quantities in which the tracer lifetime exceeds the sampling time. This paper presents a method that uses “advective blending” to create high-fidelity composites of data from polar-orbiting satellites at high temporal resolution, including a characterization of error as a function of time gap between satellite overpasses. The method is especially effective for tracers with lifetimes of longer than 7 h. Examples are presented using microwave-based retrievals of total precipitable water (TPW) over the ocean, from the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) Morphed Integrated Microwave Imagery at CIMSS TPW product (MIMIC-TPW). The mean average error of a global 0.25° × 0.25° product at 1-h resolution is 0.5–2 mm, which is very reasonable for most applications.

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Christopher S. Velden and Kristopher M. Bedka

Abstract

This study investigates the assignment of pressure heights to satellite-derived atmospheric motion vectors (AMVs), commonly known as cloud-drift and water vapor–motion winds. Large volumes of multispectral AMV datasets are compared with collocated rawinsonde wind profiles collected by the U.S. Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program at three geographically disparate sites: the southern Great Plains, the North Slope of Alaska, and the tropical western Pacific Ocean. From a careful analysis of these comparisons, the authors estimate that mean AMV observation errors are ∼5–5.5 m s−1 and that vector height assignment is the dominant factor in AMV uncertainty, contributing up to 70% of the error. These comparisons also reveal that in most cases the RMS differences between matched AMVs and rawinsonde wind values are minimized if the rawinsonde values are averaged over specified layers. In other words, on average, the AMV values better correlate to a motion over a mean tropospheric layer rather than to a traditionally assigned discrete level. The height assignment behavioral characteristics are specifically identified according to AMV height (high cloud vs low cloud), type (spectral bands; clear vs cloudy), geolocation, height assignment method, and amount of environmental vertical wind shear present. The findings have potentially important implications for data assimilation of AMVs, and these are discussed.

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Anthony J. Wimmers and Christopher S. Velden

Abstract

An improved version of the Automated Rotational Center Hurricane Eye Retrieval (ARCHER) tropical cyclone (TC) center-fixing algorithm, introduced here as “ARCHER-2,” is presented with a characterization of its accuracy and precision and a comparison with alternative methods. The algorithm is calibrated for 37- and 85–92-GHz microwave imagers; geostationary imagery at visible, near-infrared, and longwave infrared window channels; and scatterometer ambiguities. In addition to a center fix, ARCHER-2 produces a quantitative estimate of expected error that can be used automatically or manually to evaluate the suitability of a result. The median center-fix error ranges from 24 (using scatterometer) to 49 (using infrared window) km relative to the National Hurricane Center best track. Multisatellite, multisensor results can also be used together to produce a TC-track estimate that selects from the best of all of the available imagery in the ancillary “ARCHER-Track” product. The median error of ARCHER-Track varies between 17 and 38 km, depending on TC intensity and data latency. The bias of the product’s expected error varies between 0% and 12%, which translates to an average of only 4 km. When compared with operational, subjective center-fix estimates, the ARCHER-Track approach improves on 29%–43% of these cases at the tropical-depression and tropical-storm stages, at which further assistance is typically sought. This result demonstrates that ARCHER-2 and ARCHER-Track can complement and accelerate operational forecasting where needed and can furnish other automated TC-analysis methods with well-characterized center-fix information.

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Anthony J. Wimmers and Christopher S. Velden

Abstract

Precise center-fixing of tropical cyclones (TCs) is critical for operational forecasting, intensity estimation, and visualization. Current procedures are usually performed with manual input from a human analyst, using multispectral satellite imagery as the primary tools. While adequate in many cases, subjective interpretation can often lead to variance in the estimated center positions. In this paper an objective, robust algorithm is presented for resolving the rotational center of TCs: the Automated Rotational Center Hurricane Eye Retrieval (ARCHER). The algorithm finds the center of rotation using spirally oriented brightness temperature gradients in the TC banding patterns in combination with gradients along the ring-shaped edge of a possible eye. It is calibrated and validated using 85–92-GHz passive microwave imagery because of this frequency’s relative ubiquity in TC applications; however, similar versions of ARCHER are also shown to work effectively with other satellite imagery of TCs. In TC cases with estimated low to moderate vertical wind shear, the accuracy (RMSE) of the ARCHER estimated center positions is 17 km (9 km for category 1–5 hurricanes). In cases with estimated high vertical shear, the accuracy of the ARCHER estimated center positions is 31 km (21 km for category 2–5 hurricanes).

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Jason P. Dunion, Christopher D. Thorncroft, and Christopher S. Velden

Abstract

The diurnal cycle of tropical convection and the tropical cyclone (TC) cirrus canopy has been described extensively in previous studies. However, a complete understanding of the TC diurnal cycle remains elusive and is an area of ongoing research. This work describes a new technique that uses infrared satellite image differencing to examine the evolution of the TC diurnal cycle for all North Atlantic major hurricanes from 2001 to 2010. The imagery reveals cyclical pulses in the infrared cloud field that regularly propagate radially outward from the storm. These diurnal pulses begin forming in the storm’s inner core near the time of sunset each day and continue to move away from the storm overnight, reaching areas several hundreds of kilometers from the circulation center by the following afternoon. A marked warming of the cloud tops occurs behind this propagating feature and there can be pronounced structural changes to a storm as it moves away from the inner core. This suggests that the TC diurnal cycle may be an important element of TC dynamics and may have relevance to TC structure and intensity change. Evidence is also presented showing the existence of statistically significant diurnal signals in TC wind radii and objective Dvorak satellite-based intensity estimates for the 10-yr hurricane dataset that was examined. Findings indicate that TC diurnal pulses are a distinguishing characteristic of the TC diurnal cycle and the repeatability of TC diurnal pulsing in time and space suggests that it may be an unrealized, yet fundamental TC process.

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Carolyn A. Reynolds, Rolf Langland, Patricia M. Pauley, and Christopher Velden

Abstract

The impacts of assimilating dropwindsonde data and enhanced atmospheric motion vectors (AMVs) on tropical cyclone track forecasts are examined using the Navy global data assimilation and forecasting systems. Enhanced AMVs have the largest impact on eastern Pacific storms, while dropwindsonde data have the largest impact on Atlantic storms. Results in the western Pacific are mixed. Two western Pacific storms, Nuri and Jangmi, are examined in detail. For Nuri, dropwindsonde data and enhanced AMVs are at least as likely to degrade as to improve forecasts. For Jangmi, additional data improve track forecasts in most cases. An erroneous weakening of the forecasted subtropical high appears to contribute to the track errors for Nuri and Jangmi. Assimilation of enhanced AMVs systematically increases the analyzed heights in this region, counteracting this model bias. However, the impact of enhanced AMVs decreases rapidly as the model biases saturate at similar levels for experiments with and without the enhanced AMVs after the first few forecast days. Experiments are also conducted in which the errors assigned to synthetic tropical cyclone observations are increased. Moderate increases in the assigned errors improve track forecasts on average, but larger increases in the assigned errors produce mixed results. Both experiments allow for reductions in innovations and residuals when compared to dropwindsonde observations. These experiments suggest that a reformulation of the synthetic tropical cyclone observation scheme may lead to improved forecasts as more in situ and remote observations become available.

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