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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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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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Xi Guo, James P. Kossin, and Zhe-Min Tan

Abstract

Tropical cyclone (TC) translation speed (TCTS) can affect the duration of TC-related disasters, which is critical to coastal and inland areas. The long-term variation of TCTS and their relationship to the variability of the mid-latitude jet stream and storm migration are discussed here for storms near the North Atlantic coast during 1948-2019. Our results reveal the prominent seasonality in the long-term variation of TCTS, which can be largely explained by the seasonality in the covariations of the mid-latitude jet stream and storm locations. Specifically, significant increases of TCTS occur in June and October during the past decades, which may result from the equatorward displacement of the jet stream and poleward migration of storm locations. Prominent slowdown of TCTS is found in August, which is related to the weakened jet strength and equatorward storm migration. In September, the effects of poleward displacement and weakening of the jet stream on TCTS are largely compensated by the poleward storm migration, therefore, no significant change in TCTS is observed. Meanwhile, the multidecadal variability of the Atlantic may contribute to the multidecadal variability of TCTS. Our findings emphasize the significance in taking a seasonality view in discussing the variability and trends of near-coast Atlantic TCTS under climate change.

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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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Carl J. Schreck III, Lei Shi, James P. Kossin, and John J. Bates

Abstract

The Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) and convectively coupled equatorial waves are the dominant modes of synoptic-to-subseasonal variability in the tropics. These systems have frequently been examined with proxies for convection such as outgoing longwave radiation (OLR). However, upper-tropospheric water vapor (UTWV) gives a more complete picture of tropical circulations because it is more sensitive to the drying and warming associated with subsidence. Previous studies examined tropical variability using relatively short (3–7 yr) UTWV datasets. Intersatellite calibration of data from the High Resolution Infrared Radiation Sounder (HIRS) has recently produced a homogeneous 32-yr climate data record of UTWV for 200–500 hPa. This study explores the utility of HIRS UTWV for identifying the MJO and equatorial waves.

Spectral analysis shows that the MJO and equatorial waves stand out above the low-frequency background in UTWV, similar to previous findings with OLR. The fraction of variance associated with the MJO and equatorial Rossby waves is actually greater in UTWV than in OLR. Kelvin waves, on the other hand, are overshadowed in UTWV by horizontal advection from extratropical Rossby waves.

For the MJO, UTWV identifies subsidence drying in the subtropics, poleward of the convection. These dry anomalies are associated with the MJO’s subtropical Rossby gyres. MJO events with dry anomalies over the central North Pacific Ocean also amplify the 200-hPa flow pattern over North America 7 days later. These events cannot be identified using equatorial OLR alone, which demonstrates that UTWV is a useful supplement for identifying the MJO, equatorial waves.

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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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Kenneth R. Knapp, Jessica L. Matthews, James P. Kossin, and Christopher C. Hennon

Abstract

The Cyclone Center project maintains a website that allows visitors to answer questions based on tropical cyclone satellite imagery. The goal is to provide a reanalysis of satellite-derived tropical cyclone characteristics from a homogeneous historical database composed of satellite imagery with a common spatial resolution for use in long-term, global analyses. The determination of the cyclone “type” (curved band, eye, shear, etc.) is a starting point for this process. This analysis shows how multiple classifications of a single image are combined to provide probabilities of a particular image’s type using an expectation–maximization (EM) algorithm. Analysis suggests that the project needs about 10 classifications of an image to adequately determine the storm type. The algorithm is capable of characterizing classifiers with varying levels of expertise, though the project needs about 200 classifications to quantify an individual’s precision. The EM classifications are compared with an objective algorithm, satellite fix data, and the classifications of a known classifier. The EM classifications compare well, with best agreement for eye and embedded center storm types and less agreement for shear and when convection is too weak (termed no-storm images). Both the EM algorithm and the known classifier showed similar tendencies when compared against an objective algorithm. The EM algorithm also fared well when compared to tropical cyclone fix datasets, having higher agreement with embedded centers and less agreement for eye images. The results were used to show the distribution of storm types versus wind speed during a storm’s lifetime.

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