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Patrick Duran and John Molinari


Dropsondes with horizontal spacing as small as 4 km were released from the stratosphere in rapidly intensifying Hurricane Patricia (2015) during the Office of Naval Research Tropical Cyclone Intensity experiment. These observations provide cross sections of unprecedented resolution through the inner core of a hurricane. On 21 October, Patricia exhibited a strong tropopause inversion layer (TIL) across its entire circulation, with a maximum magnitude of 5.1 K (100 m)−1. This inversion weakened between 21 and 22 October as potential temperature θ increased by up to 16 K just below the tropopause and decreased by up to 14 K in the lower stratosphere. Between 22 and 23 October, the TIL over the eye weakened further, allowing the tropopause to rise by 1 km. Meanwhile over Patricia’s secondary eyewall, the TIL restrengthened and bulged upward by about 700 m into what was previously the lower stratosphere. These observations support many aspects of recent modeling studies, including eyewall penetration into the stratosphere during rapid intensification (RI), the existence of a narrow inflow layer near the tropopause, and the role of subsidence from the stratosphere in developing an upper-level warm core. Three mechanisms of inner-core tropopause variability are hypothesized: destabilization of the TIL through turbulent mixing, weakening of the TIL over the eye through upper-tropospheric subsidence warming, and increasing tropopause height forced by overshooting updrafts in the eyewall. None of these processes are seen as the direct cause of RI, but rather part of the RI process that includes strong increases in boundary layer moist entropy.

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