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James P. Kossin, Brian D. McNoldy, and Wayne H. Schubert

Abstract

A collection of images depicting various swirling patterns within low-level cloud decks in hurricane eyes is presented and described. A possible causal mechanism for the presence of these cloud patterns is suggested by comparison of the observed cloud patterns with the evolution of passive tracers in a simple 2D barotropic model. The model is initialized with a barotropically unstable flow field that imitates the observed flows in hurricanes, and numerical integration of this field simulates vigorous mixing between eye and eyewall. During the mixing process, passive tracers initially embedded in the flow form swirling patterns in the eye that are strikingly similar to cloud patterns often observed in the eyes of hurricanes.

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James P. Kossin, Suzana J. Camargo, and Matthew Sitkowski

Abstract

The variability of North Atlantic tropical storm and hurricane tracks, and its relationship to climate variability, is explored. Tracks from the North Atlantic hurricane database for the period 1950–2007 are objectively separated into four groups using a cluster technique that has been previously applied to tropical cyclones in other ocean basins. The four clusters form zonal and meridional separations of the tracks. The meridional separation largely captures the separation between tropical and more baroclinic systems, while the zonal separation segregates Gulf of Mexico and Cape Verde storms. General climatologies of the seasonality, intensity, landfall probability, and historical destructiveness of each cluster are documented, and relationships between cluster membership and climate variability across a broad spectrum of time scales are identified.

Composites, with respect to cluster membership, of sea surface temperature and other environmental fields show that regional and remote modes of climate variability modulate the cluster members in substantially differing ways and further demonstrate that factors such as El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Atlantic meridional mode (AMM), North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) have varying intrabasin influences on North Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes. Relationships with African easterly waves are also considered. The AMM and ENSO are found to most strongly modulate the deep tropical systems, while the MJO most strongly modulates Gulf of Mexico storms and the NAO most strongly modulates storms that form to the north and west of their Cape Verde counterparts and closer to the NAO centers of action.

Different clusters also contribute differently to the observed trends in North Atlantic storm frequency and may be related to intrabasin differences in sea surface temperature trends. Frequency trends are dominated by the deep tropical systems, which account for most of the major hurricanes and overall power dissipation. Contrarily, there are no discernable trends in the frequency of Gulf of Mexico storms, which account for the majority of landfalling storms. When the proportion that each cluster contributes to overall frequency is considered, there are clear shifts between the deep tropical systems and the more baroclinic systems. A shift toward proportionally more deep tropical systems began in the early to mid-1980s more than 10 years before the 1995 North Atlantic hurricane season, which is generally used to mark the beginning of the present period of heightened activity.

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Carl J. Schreck III, Kenneth R. Knapp, and James P. Kossin

Abstract

Using the International Best Track Archive for Climate Stewardship (IBTrACS), the climatology of tropical cyclones is compared between two global best track datasets: 1) the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) subset of IBTrACS (IBTrACS-WMO) and 2) a combination of data from the National Hurricane Center and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (NHC+JTWC). Comparing the climatologies between IBTrACS-WMO and NHC+JTWC highlights some of the heterogeneities inherent in these datasets for the period of global satellite coverage 1981–2010. The results demonstrate the sensitivity of these climatologies to the choice of best track dataset. Previous studies have examined best track heterogeneities in individual regions, usually the North Atlantic and west Pacific. This study puts those regional issues into their global context. The differences between NHC+JTWC and IBTrACS-WMO are greatest in the west Pacific, where the strongest storms are substantially weaker in IBTrACS-WMO. These disparities strongly affect the global measures of tropical cyclone activity because 30% of the world’s tropical cyclones form in the west Pacific. Because JTWC employs similar procedures throughout most of the globe, the comparisons in this study highlight differences between WMO agencies. For example, NHC+JTWC has more 96-kt (~49 m s−1) storms than IBTrACS-WMO in the west Pacific but fewer in the Australian region. This discrepancy probably points to differing operational procedures between the WMO agencies in the two regions. Without better documentation of historical analysis procedures, the only way to remedy these heterogeneities will be through systematic reanalysis.

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James P. Kossin, Wayne H. Schubert, and Michael T. Montgomery

Abstract

Intense tropical cyclones often exhibit concentric eyewall patterns in their radar reflectivity. Deep convection within the inner, or primary, eyewall is surrounded by a nearly echo-free moat, which in turn is surrounded by an outer, or secondary ring of deep convection. Both convective regions typically contain well-defined tangential wind maxima. The primary wind maximum is associated with large vorticity just inside the radius of maximum wind, while the secondary wind maximum is usually associated with relatively enhanced vorticity embedded in the outer ring. In contrast, the moat is a region of low vorticity. If the vorticity profile across the eye and inner eyewall is approximated as monotonic, the resulting radial profile of vorticity still satisfies the Rayleigh necessary condition for instability as the radial gradient twice changes sign.

Here the authors investigate the stability of such structures and, in the case of instability, simulate the nonlinear evolution into a more stable structure using a nondivergent barotropic model. Because the radial gradient of vorticity changes sign twice, two types of instability and vorticity rearrangement are identified: 1) instability across the outer ring of enhanced vorticity, and 2) instability across the moat. Type 1 instability occurs when the outer ring of enhanced vorticity is sufficiently narrow and when the circulation of the central vortex is sufficiently weak (compared to the outer ring) that it does not induce enough differential rotation across the outer ring to stabilize it. The nonlinear mixing associated with type 1 instability results in a broader and weaker vorticity ring but still maintains a significant secondary wind maximum. The central vortex induces strong differential rotation (and associated enstrophy cascade) in the moat region, which then acts as a barrier to inward mixing of small (but finite) amplitude asymmetric vorticity disturbances. Type 2 instability occurs when the radial extent of the moat is sufficiently narrow so that unstable interactions may occur between the central vortex and the inner edge of the ring. Because the vortex-induced differential rotation across the ring is large when the ring is close to the vortex, type 2 instability typically precludes type 1 instability except in the case of very thin rings. The nonlinear mixing from type 2 instability perturbs the vortex into a variety of shapes. In the case of contracting rings of enhanced vorticity, the vortex and moat typically evolve into a nearly steady tripole structure, thereby offering a mechanism for the formation and persistence of elliptical eyewalls.

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Stephanie C. Herring, Martin P. Hoerling, James P. Kossin, Thomas C. Peterson, and Peter A. Stott

Editors note: For easy download the posted pdf of the Explaining Extreme Events of 2014 is a very low-resolution file. A high-resolution copy of the report is available by clicking here. Please be patient as it may take a few minutes for the high-resolution file to download.

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Stephanie C. Herring, Martin P. Hoerling, James P. Kossin, Thomas C. Peterson, and Peter A. Stott
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Stephanie C. Herring, Martin P. Hoerling, James P. Kossin, Thomas C. Peterson, and Peter A. Stott
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Eric A. Hendricks, Wayne H. Schubert, Richard K. Taft, Huiqun Wang, and James P. Kossin

Abstract

The asymmetric dynamics of potential vorticity mixing in the hurricane inner core are further advanced by examining the end states that result from the unforced evolution of hurricane-like vorticity rings in a nondivergent barotropic model. The results from a sequence of 170 numerical simulations are summarized. The sequence covers a two-dimensional parameter space, with the first parameter defining the hollowness of the vortex (i.e., the ratio of eye to inner-core relative vorticity) and the second parameter defining the thickness of the ring (i.e., the ratio of the inner and outer radii of the ring). In approximately one-half of the cases, the ring becomes barotropically unstable, and there ensues a vigorous vorticity mixing episode between the eye and eyewall. The output of the barotropic model is used to (i) verify that the nonlinear model approximately replicates the linear theory of the fastest-growing azimuthal mode in the early phase of the evolution, and (ii) characterize the end states (defined at t = 48 h) that result from the nonlinear chaotic vorticity advection and mixing. It is found that the linear stability theory is a good guide to the fastest-growing exponential mode in the numerical model. Two additional features are observed in the numerical model results. The first is an azimuthal wavenumber-2 deformation of the vorticity ring that occurs for moderately thick, nearly filled rings. The second is an algebraically growing wavenumber-1 instability (not present in the linear theory because of the assumed solution) that is observed as a wobbling eye (or the trochoidal oscillation for a moving vortex) for thick rings that are stable to all exponentially growing instabilities. Most end states are found to be monopoles. For very hollow and thin rings, persistent mesovortices may exist for more than 15 h before merging to a monopole. For thicker rings, the relaxation to a monopole takes longer (between 48 and 72 h). For moderately thick rings with nearly filled cores, the most likely end state is an elliptical eyewall. In this nondivergent barotropic context, both the minimum central pressure and maximum tangential velocity simultaneously decrease over 48 h during all vorticity mixing events.

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Christopher M. Rozoff, James P. Kossin, Wayne H. Schubert, and Pedro J. Mulero

Abstract

In hurricane eyewalls, the vertical stretching effect tends to produce an annular ring of high vorticity. Idealized, unforced nondivergent barotropic model results have suggested such rings of vorticity are often barotropically unstable, leading to strong asymmetric mixing events where vorticity is mixed inward into a more stable configuration. Such mixing events most often result in weakened maximum winds. The manner in which forcing modifies these unforced simulations remains an open question.

In the current study, a forced, two-dimensional barotropic model is used to systematically study the sensitivity of vorticity rings to ring geometry and spatially and temporally varying forcing. The simulations reveal an internal mechanism that interrupts the intensification process resulting from vorticity generation in the hurricane eyewall. This internal control mechanism is due to vorticity mixing in the region of the eye and eyewall and can manifest itself in two antithetical forms—as a transient “intensification brake” during symmetric intensification or as an enhancer of intensification through efficient transport of vorticity from the eyewall, where it is generated, to the eye.

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John A. Knaff, Thomas A. Cram, Andrea B. Schumacher, James P. Kossin, and Mark DeMaria

Abstract

Annular hurricanes are a subset of intense tropical cyclones that have been shown in previous work to be significantly stronger, to maintain their peak intensities longer, and to weaken more slowly than average tropical cyclones. Because of these characteristics, they represent a significant forecasting challenge. This paper updates the list of annular hurricanes to encompass the years 1995–2006 in both the North Atlantic and eastern–central North Pacific tropical cyclone basins. Because annular hurricanes have a unique appearance in infrared satellite imagery, and form in a specific set of environmental conditions, an objective real-time method of identifying these hurricanes is developed. However, since the occurrence of annular hurricanes is rare (∼4% of all hurricanes), a special algorithm to detect annular hurricanes is developed that employs two steps to identify the candidates: 1) prescreening the data and 2) applying a linear discriminant analysis. This algorithm is trained using a dependent dataset (1995–2003) that includes 11 annular hurricanes. The resulting algorithm is then independently tested using datasets from the years 2004–06, which contained an additional three annular hurricanes. Results indicate that the algorithm is able to discriminate annular hurricanes from tropical cyclones with intensities greater than 84 kt (43.2 m s−1). The probability of detection or hit rate produced by this scheme is shown to be ∼96% with a false alarm rate of ∼6%, based on 1363 six-hour time periods with a tropical cyclone with an intensity greater than 84 kt (1995–2006).

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