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Kun Gao
and
Isaac Ginis

Abstract

Horizontal roll vortices, or rolls, are frequently observed in the hurricane boundary layer (HBL). Previous studies suggest that these rolls can be generated by the inflection point instability of the HBL flow. In this study we investigate the formation of rolls due to this mechanism in the axisymmetric HBL using a numerical approach that explicitly resolves rolls. The effects of mean HBL wind and stratification distributions on rolls are evaluated. We identify two important factors of the mean HBL wind that affect the characteristics of rolls. The dynamical HBL height affects the wavelength of rolls, and the magnitude of the mean wind shear affects the growth rate of rolls. As a result, under neutrally stratified HBL, the wavelength of rolls increases with the radius (out of the radius of maximum wind), while the growth rate of rolls decreases. The stratification also plays an important role in the generation of rolls. The stable stratification suppresses the growth of rolls because of the negative work done by the buoyancy force. Nonuniform stratification with a mixed layer has less suppressing effect on rolls. Rolls can trigger internal waves in the stably stratified layer, which have both vertically propagating and decaying properties. We derive analytical solutions for the internal waves, which relate the properties of the internal waves to the boundary layer rolls. We find the properties of the internal waves are affected by the mixed-layer height.

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Kun Gao
and
Isaac Ginis

Abstract

In this study, the authors numerically simulate roll vortices (rolls) generated by the inflection-point instability in the hurricane boundary layer (HBL). The approach is based on embedding a two-dimensional high-resolution single-grid roll-resolving model (SRM) at selected horizontal grid points of an axisymmetric HBL model. The results from a set of idealized experiments indicate that the mixed-layer height is an important factor affecting the magnitude of the roll velocities and the structure of the internal waves triggered in the stably stratified layer above. This study reveals the important difference between the roll-induced cross-roll (nearly radial) and along-roll (nearly azimuthal) momentum fluxes: while the cross-roll momentum flux is well correlated to the cross-roll mean wind shear, the along-roll momentum flux is typically not correlated with the along-roll mean wind shear. Therefore, the commonly used K theory in the boundary layer parameterizations cannot reasonably capture the vertical distribution of the roll-induced along-roll momentum flux. Moreover, the authors find that the rolls induce more significant changes in the mean radial wind profile than in the mean azimuthal wind profile. Specifically, rolls reduce the inflow near surface, enhance the inflow at upper levels, and increase the inflow-layer height. Based on a linear dynamical HBL model, the authors find that the impact of rolls on the mean radial wind profile is essentially due to their redistribution effect on the mean azimuthal momentum in the HBL.

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Isaac Ginis
and
Georgi Sutyrin

Abstract

A theory of the depth-averaged currents and sea surface elevation generated by a moving hurricane in a stratified ocean with flat bottom is presented. Using a scale analysis of the depth-integrated momentum and continuity equations, it is found that the depth-averaged currents are nearly nondivergent and determined entirely by the wind stress curl. Earth's rotation and ocean stratification have negligible effects. The sea surface elevation is decomposed into four physically different parts caused by geostrophic adjustment to the depth-averaged currents, wind stress divergence, inverted barometer offset, and baroclinic effects. When a hurricane moves with a uniform speed, it generates quasi-stationary, alongtrack, elongated depth-averaged currents. The sea surface elevation remaining after the hurricane passage is a combination of a trough geostrophically adjusted with the depth-averaged currents and a sea surface elevation associated with baroclinic effects.

The barotropic response is analysed for different wind stress distribution. A universal nondimensional description of the depth-averaged flow is suggested, using scaling based on the maximum wind stress torque LTL and its radius L. This marks the primary difference with baroclinic responses where the radius of maximum winds, Rm , and maximum wind stress Tm are the determining scales. For all cases considered, the maximum depth-averaged current is proportional to LTL and the distance from the maximum to the storm track is proportional to L. The wind stress behavior at the hurricane's periphery is shown to be an important feature in .determining the sea surface response.

Analytical solutions of approximated equations agree well with numerical simulations based on the full set of equations. It is demonstrated, using a two-layer model, that nonlinear coupling between the baroclinic and barotropic modes is rather weak, and therefore they may be calculated separately.

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Morris A. Bender
and
Isaac Ginis

Abstract

In order to investigate the effect of tropical cyclone–ocean interaction on the intensity of observed hurricanes, the GFDL movable triply nested mesh hurricane model was coupled with a high-resolution version of the Princeton Ocean Model. The ocean model had 1/6° uniform resolution, which matched the horizontal resolution of the hurricane model in its innermost grid. Experiments were run with and without inclusion of the coupling for two cases of Hurricane Opal (1995) and one case of Hurricane Gilbert (1988) in the Gulf of Mexico and two cases each of Hurricanes Felix (1995) and Fran (1996) in the western Atlantic. The results confirmed the conclusions suggested by the earlier idealized studies that the cooling of the sea surface induced by the tropical cyclone will have a significant impact on the intensity of observed storms, particularly for slow moving storms where the SST decrease is greater. In each of the seven forecasts, the ocean coupling led to substantial improvements in the prediction of storm intensity measured by the storm’s minimum sea level pressure.

Without the effect of coupling the GFDL model incorrectly forecasted 25-hPa deepening of Gilbert as it moved across the Gulf of Mexico. With the coupling included, the model storm deepened only 10 hPa, which was much closer to the observed amount of 4 hPa. Similarly, during the period that Opal moved very slowly in the southern Gulf of Mexico, the coupled model produced a large SST decrease northwest of the Yucatan and slow deepening consistent with the observations. The uncoupled model using the initial NCEP SSTs predicted rapid deepening of 58 hPa during the same period.

Improved intensity prediction was achieved both for Hurricanes Felix and Fran in the western Atlantic. For the case of Hurricane Fran, the coarse resolution of the NCEP SST analysis could not resolve Hurricane Edouard’s wake, which was produced when Edouard moved in nearly an identical path to Fran four days earlier. As a result, the operational GFDL forecast using the operational SSTs and without coupling incorrectly forecasted 40-hPa deepening while Fran remained at nearly constant intensity as it crossed the wake. When the coupled model was run with Edouard’s cold wake generated by imposing hurricane wind forcing during the ocean initialization, the intensity prediction was significantly improved. The model also correctly predicted the rapid deepening that occurred as Fran began to move away from the cold wake. These results suggest the importance of an accurate initial SST analysis as well as the inclusion of the ocean coupling, for accurate hurricane intensity prediction with a dynamical model.

Recently, the GFDL hurricane–ocean coupled model used in these case studies was run on 163 forecasts during the 1995–98 seasons. Improved intensity forecasts were again achieved with the mean absolute error in the forecast of central pressure reduced by about 26% compared to the operational GFDL model. During the 1998 season, when the system was run in near–real time, the coupled model improved the intensity forecasts for all storms with central pressure higher than 940 hPa although the most significant improvement (∼60%) occurred in the intensity range of 960–970 hPa. These much larger sample sets confirmed the conclusion from the case studies, that the hurricane–ocean interaction is an important physical mechanism in the intensity of observed tropical cyclones.

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Richard M. Yablonsky
and
Isaac Ginis

Abstract

Coupled hurricane–ocean forecast models require proper initialization of the ocean thermal structure. Here, a new feature-based (F-B) ocean initialization procedure in the GFDL/University of Rhode Island (URI) coupled hurricane prediction system is presented to account for spatial and temporal variability of mesoscale oceanic features in the Gulf of Mexico, including the Loop Current (LC), Loop Current eddies [i.e., warm-core rings (WCRs)], and cold-core rings (CCRs). Using only near-real-time satellite altimetry for the “SHA-assimilated” case, the LC, a single WCR, and a single CCR are assimilated into NAVOCEANO’s Global Digitized Environmental Model (GDEM) ocean temperature and salinity climatology along with satellite-derived daily sea surface temperature (SST) data from 15 September 2005 to produce a more realistic three-dimensional temperature field valid on the model initialization date (15 September 2005). For the “fully assimilated” case, both near-real-time altimetry and real-time in situ airborne XBT (AXBT) temperature profiles are assimilated into GDEM along with SST to produce the three-dimensional temperature field. Vertical profiles from the resulting SHA-assimilated and fully assimilated temperature fields are compared to 18 real-time AXBT temperature profiles, the ocean climatology (GDEM), and an alternative data-assimilated product [the daily North and Equatorial Atlantic Ocean Prediction System Best Estimate (RSMAS HYCOM), which uses an Optimal Interpolation (OI) based assimilation technique] to determine the relative accuracy of the F-B initialization procedure presented here. Also, the tropical cyclone heat potential (TCHP) from each of these profiles is calculated by integrating the oceanic heat content from the surface to the depth of the 26°C isotherm. Assuming the AXBT profiles are truth, the TCHP rms error for the F-B SHA-assimilated case, the F-B fully assimilated case, the GDEM ocean climatology, and the RSMAS HYCOM product is 12, 10, 45, and 26 kJ cm−2, respectively.

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Aleksandr Falkovich
,
Isaac Ginis
, and
Stephen Lord

Abstract

A new ocean data assimilation and initialization procedure is presented. It was developed to obtain more realistic initial ocean conditions, including the position and structure of the Gulf Stream (GS) and Loop Current (LC), in the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory/University of Rhode Island (GFDL/URI) coupled hurricane prediction system used operationally at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. This procedure is based on a feature-modeling approach that allows a realistic simulation of the cross-frontal temperature, salinity, and velocity of oceanic fronts. While previous feature models used analytical formulas to represent frontal structures, the new procedure uses the innovative method of cross-frontal “sharpening” of the background temperature and salinity fields. The sharpening is guided by observed cross sections obtained in specialized field experiments in the GS. The ocean currents are spun up by integrating the ocean model for 2 days, which was sufficient for the velocity fields to adjust to the strong gradients of temperature and salinity in the main thermocline in the GS and LC. A new feature-modeling approach was also developed for the initialization of a multicurrent system in the Caribbean Sea, which provides the LC source. The initialization procedure is demonstrated for coupled model forecasts of Hurricane Isidore (2002).

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Kun Gao
and
Isaac Ginis

Abstract

Previous theoretical and numerical studies only focused on the formation of roll vortices (rolls) under a stationary and axisymmetric hurricane. The effect of the asymmetric wind structure induced by the storm movement on the roll characteristics remains unknown. In this study, we present the first attempt to investigate the characteristics of linear-phase rolls under a moving hurricane by embedding a linear two-dimensional (2D) roll-resolving model into a 3D hurricane boundary layer model. It is found that the roll horizontal wavelength under the moving hurricane is largely determined by the radial-shear-layer depth, defined as the thickness of the layer with positive radial wind shear. The horizontal distribution of the roll wavelength resembles the asymmetric pattern of the radial-shear-layer depth. Interestingly, the roll growth rate is not only affected by the radial wind shear magnitude alluded to in previous studies but also by the radial-shear-layer depth. A deeper (shallower) radial shear layer tends to decrease (increase) the roll growth rate. Such an effect is due to the presence of the bottom boundary. The bottom boundary constrains the lower-level roll streamlines and reduces the efficiency of rolls in extracting kinetic energy from the radial shear. This effect is more pronounced under a deeper shear layer, which favors the formation of larger-size rolls. This study improves the understanding of the main factors affecting the structure and growth of rolls and will provide guidance for interpreting the spatial distribution of rolls under realistic hurricanes in observations and high-resolution simulations.

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Richard M. Yablonsky
and
Isaac Ginis

Abstract

Upper oceanic heat content (OHC) in advance of a hurricane is generally superior to prestorm sea surface temperature (SST) for indicating favorable regions for hurricane intensification and maintenance. OHC is important because a hurricane’s surface winds mix the upper ocean and entrain cooler water into the oceanic mixed layer from below, subsequently cooling the sea surface in the region providing heat energy to the storm. For a given initial SST, increased OHC typically decreases the wind-induced sea surface cooling, and a warm ocean eddy (WCR) has a higher OHC than its surroundings, so conditions typically become more favorable for a hurricane to intensify when the storm’s core encounters a WCR. When considering hurricane intensity, however, one often-neglected aspect of a WCR is its anticyclonic circulation. This circulation may impact the location and magnitude of the hurricane-induced sea surface cooling. Using an ocean model, either prescribed hurricane wind stress or wind stress obtained via coupling to a hurricane model is applied to an initial ocean condition in which the SST is homogeneous, but a WCR is embedded in an otherwise horizontally homogeneous subsurface density field. Based on model experiments, when a WCR is located to the right of the storm track (in the Northern Hemisphere), the interaction of the WCR’s circulation with the hurricane-induced cold wake can cause increased sea surface cooling under the storm core and decreased storm intensity relative to the scenario where no WCR is present at all. Therefore, the presence of a WCR in advance of a hurricane sometimes creates a less favorable condition for hurricane intensification.

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Yalin Fan
,
Isaac Ginis
, and
Tetsu Hara

Abstract

In coupled ocean–atmosphere models, it is usually assumed that the momentum flux into ocean currents is equal to the flux from air (wind stress). However, when the surface wave field grows (decays) in space or time, it gains (loses) momentum and reduces (increases) the momentum flux into subsurface currents compared to the flux from the wind. In particular, under tropical cyclone (TC) conditions the surface wave field is complex and fast varying in space and time and may significantly affect the momentum flux from wind into ocean. In this paper, numerical experiments are performed to investigate the momentum flux budget across the air–sea interface under both uniform and idealized TC winds. The wave fields are simulated using the WAVEWATCH III model. The difference between the momentum flux from wind and the flux into currents is estimated using an air–sea momentum flux budget model. In many of the experiments, the momentum flux into currents is significantly reduced relative to the flux from the wind. The percentage of this reduction depends on the choice of the drag coefficient parameterization and can be as large as 25%. For the TC cases, the reduction is mainly in the right-rear quadrant of the hurricane, and the percentage of the flux reduction is insensitive to the changes of the storm size and the asymmetry in the wind field but varies with the TC translation speed and the storm intensity. The results of this study suggest that it is important to explicitly resolve the effect of surface waves for accurate estimations of the momentum flux into currents under TCs.

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Yalin Fan
,
Isaac Ginis
, and
Tetsu Hara

Abstract

In this paper, the wind–wave–current interaction mechanisms in tropical cyclones and their effect on the surface wave and ocean responses are investigated through a set of numerical experiments. The key element of the authors’ modeling approach is the air–sea interface model, which consists of a wave boundary layer model and an air–sea momentum flux budget model. The results show that the time and spatial variations in the surface wave field, as well as the wave–current interaction, significantly reduce momentum flux into the currents in the right rear quadrant of the hurricane. The reduction of the momentum flux into the ocean consequently reduces the magnitude of the subsurface current and sea surface temperature cooling to the right of the hurricane track and the rate of upwelling/downwelling in the thermocline. During wind–wave–current interaction, the momentum flux into the ocean is mainly affected by reducing the wind speed relative to currents, whereas the wave field is mostly affected by refraction due to the spatially varying currents. In the area where the current is strongly and roughly aligned with wave propagation direction, the wave spectrum of longer waves is reduced, the peak frequency is shifted to a higher frequency, and the angular distribution of the wave energy is widened.

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