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Roy W. Spencer
William D. Braswell


The first Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit temperature sounder (AMSU-A) was launched on the NOAA-15 satellite on 13 May 1998. The AMSU-A’s higher spatial and radiometric resolutions provide more useful information on the strength of the middle- and upper-tropospheric warm cores associated with tropical cyclones than have previous microwave temperature sounders. The gradient wind relationship suggests that the temperature gradient near the core of tropical cyclones increases nonlinearly with wind speed. The gradient wind equation is recast to include AMSU-A-derived variables. Stepwise regression is used to determine which of these variables is most closely related to maximum sustained winds (V max). The satellite variables investigated include the radially averaged gradients at two spatial resolutions of AMSU-A channels 1–10 T b data (δ r T b ), the squares of these gradients, a channel-15-based scattering index (SI89), and area-averaged T b . Calculations of T b and δ r T b from mesoscale model simulations of Andrew (1992) reveal the effects of the AMSU spatial sampling on the cyclone warm core presentation. Stepwise regression of 66 AMSU-A terms against National Hurricane Center V max estimates from the 1998 and 1999 Atlantic hurricane season confirms the existence of a nonlinear relationship between wind speed and radially averaged temperature gradients near the cyclone warm core. Of six regression terms, four are dominated by temperature information, and two are interpreted as correcting for hydrometeor contamination. Jackknifed regressions were performed to estimate the algorithm performance on independent data. For the 82 cases that had in situ measurements of V max, the average error standard deviation was 4.7 m s−1. For 108 cases without in situ wind data, the average error standard deviation was 7.5 m s−1. Operational considerations, including the detection of weak cyclones and false alarm reduction, are also discussed.

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Roy W. Spencer
William M. Lapenta
, and
Franklin R. Robertson


Spatial fields of satellite-measured deep-layer temperatures are examined in the context of quasigeostrophic theory. It is found that midtropospheric geostrophic vorticity and quasigeostrophic vertical motions can be diagnosed from microwave temperature measurements of only two deep layers. The lower- (1000–400 hPa) and upper- (400–50 hPa) layer temperatures are estimated from limb-corrected TIROS-N Microwave Sounding Units (MSU) channel 2 and 3 data, spatial fields of which can be used to estimate the midtropospheric thermal wind and geostrophic vorticity fields. Together with Trenberth's simplification of the quasigeostrophic omega equation, these two quantities can be then used to estimate the geostrophic vorticity advection by the thermal wind, which is related to the quasigeostrophic vertical velocity in the midtroposphere.

Critical to the technique is the observation that geostrophic vorticity fields calculated from the channel 3 temperature features are very similar to those calculated from traditional, “bottom-up” integrated height fields from radiosonde data. This suggests a lack of cyclone-scale height features near the top of the channel 3 weighting function, making the channel 3 cyclone-scale “thickness” features approximately the same as height features near the bottom of the weighting function. Thus, the MSU data provide observational validation of the LID (level of insignificant dynamics) assumption of Hirshberg and Fritsch.

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