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Muhammad Naufal Razin and Michael M. Bell

Abstract

Hurricane Ophelia (2005) underwent an unconventional eyewall replacement cycle (ERC) as it was a Category 1 storm located over cold sea surface temperatures near 23°C. The ERC was analyzed using airborne radar, flight-level, and dropsonde data collected during the Hurricane Rainband and Intensity Change Experiment (RAINEX) intensive observation period on 11 September 2005. Results showed that the spin-up of the secondary tangential wind maximum during the ERC can be attributed to the efficient convergence of absolute angular momentum by the mid-level inflow of Ophelia’s dominantly stratiform rainbands. This secondary tangential wind maximum strongly contributed to the azimuthal mean tangential wind field, which is conducive for increased low-level supergradient winds and corresponding outflow. The low-level supergradient forcing enhanced convergence to form a secondary eyewall. Ophelia provides a unique example of an ERC occurring in a weaker storm with predominantly stratiform rainbands, suggesting an important role of stratiform precipitation processes in the development of secondary eyewalls.

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Michael M. Bell, Michael T. Montgomery, and Kerry A. Emanuel

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Quantifying air–sea exchanges of enthalpy and momentum is important for understanding and skillfully predicting tropical cyclone intensity, but the magnitude of the corresponding wind speed–dependent bulk exchange coefficients is largely unknown at major hurricane wind speeds greater than 50 m s−1. Since direct turbulent flux measurements in these conditions are extremely difficult, the momentum and enthalpy fluxes were deduced via absolute angular momentum and total energy budgets. An error analysis of the methodology was performed to quantify and mitigate potentially significant uncertainties resulting from unresolved budget terms and observational errors. An analysis of six missions from the 2003 Coupled Boundary Layers Air–Sea Transfer (CBLAST) field program in major hurricanes Fabian and Isabel was conducted using a new variational technique. The analysis indicates a near-surface mean drag coefficient CD of 2.4 × 10−3 with a 46% standard deviation and a mean enthalpy coefficient CK of 1.0 × 10−3 with a 40% standard deviation for wind speeds between 52 and 72 m s−1. These are the first known estimates of CK and the ratio of enthalpy to drag coefficient CK/CD in major hurricanes. The results suggest that there is no significant change in the magnitude of the bulk exchange coefficients estimated at minimal hurricane wind speeds, and that the ratio CK/CD does not significantly increase for wind speeds greater than 50 m s−1.

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Michael M. Bell, Michael T. Montgomery, and Wen-Chau Lee

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Multiplatform observations of Hurricane Rita (2005) were collected as part of the Hurricane Rainband and Intensity Change Experiment (RAINEX) field campaign during a concentric eyewall stage of the storm’s life cycle that occurred during 21–22 September. Satellite, aircraft, dropwindsonde, and Doppler radar data are used here to examine the symmetric evolution of the hurricane as it underwent eyewall replacement.

During the approximately 1-day observation period, developing convection associated with the secondary eyewall became more symmetric and contracted inward. Latent heating in the emergent secondary eyewall led to the development of a distinct toroidal (overturning) circulation with inertially constrained radial inflow above the boundary layer and compensating subsidence in the moat region, properties that are consistent broadly with the balanced vortex response to an imposed ring of diabatic heating outside the primary eyewall. The primary eyewall’s convection became more asymmetric during the observation period, but the primary eyewall was still the dominant swirling wind and vorticity structure throughout the period.

The observed structure and evolution of Rita’s secondary eyewall suggest that spinup of the tangential winds occurred both within and above the boundary layer, and that both balanced and unbalanced dynamical processes played an important role. Although Rita’s core intensity decreased during the observation period, the observations indicate a 125% increase in areal extent of hurricane-force winds and a 19% increase in integrated kinetic energy resulting from the eyewall replacement.

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Michael T. Montgomery, Michael M. Bell, Sim D. Aberson, and Michael L. Black

This study is an observational analysis of the inner-core structure, sea surface temperature, outflow layer, and atmospheric boundary layer of an intense tropical cyclone whose intensity and structure is consistent with recent numerical and theoretical predictions of superintense storms. The findings suggest new scientific challenges for the current understanding of hurricanes.

Unprecedented observations of the category-5 Hurricane Isabel (2003) were collected during 12–14 September. This two-part article reports novel dynamic and thermodynamic aspects of the inner-core structure of Isabel on 13 September that were made possible by analysis of these data. Here, a composite of the axisymmetric structure of the inner core and environment of Isabel is estimated using global positioning system dropwindsondes and in situ aircraft data. In Part II, an extreme wind speed observation on the same day is discussed in the context of this work.

The axisymmetric data composite suggests a reservoir of high-entropy air inside the low-level eye and significant penetration of inflowing near-surface air from outside. The analysis suggests that the low-level air penetrating the eye is enhanced thermodynamically by acquiring additional entropy through interaction with the ocean and replaces air mixed out of the eye. The results support the hypothesis that this high-entropy eye air “turboboosts” the hurricane engine upon its injection into the eyewall clouds. Recent estimates of the ratio of sea-to-air enthalpy and momentum exchange at high wind speeds are used to suggest that Isabel utilized this extra power to exceed the previously assumed intensity upper bound by 10–35 m s−1 for the given environmental conditions. Additional study with other datasets is encouraged to further test the superintensity hypothesis.

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Michael J. Bell, Adam T. Blaker, and Joël J.-M. Hirschi

Abstract

Large-amplitude [±100 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1)], high-frequency oscillations in the Pacific Ocean’s meridional overturning circulation within 10° of the equator have been found in integrations of the NEMO ocean general circulation model. Part I of this paper showed that these oscillations are dominated by two bands of frequencies with periods close to 4 and 10 days and that they are driven by the winds within about 10° of the equator. This part shows that the oscillations can be well simulated by small-amplitude, wind-driven motions on a horizontally uniform, stably stratified state of rest. Its main novelty is that, by focusing on the zonally integrated linearized equations, it presents solutions for the motions in a basin with sloping side boundaries. The solutions are found using vertical normal modes and equatorial meridional modes representing Yanai and inertia–gravity waves. Simulations of 16-day-long segments of the time series for the Pacific of each of the first three meridional and vertical modes (nine modes in all) capture between 85% and 95% of the variance of matching time series segments diagnosed from the NEMO integrations. The best agreement is obtained by driving the solutions with the full wind forcing and the full pressure forces on the bathymetry. Similar results are obtained for the corresponding modes in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Slower variations in the same meridional and vertical modes of the MOC are also shown to be well simulated by a quasi-stationary solution driven by zonal wind and pressure forces.

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Jhordanne J. Jones, Michael M. Bell, and Philip J. Klotzbach

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Given recent insights into the role of anticyclonic Rossby wave breaking (AWB) in driving subseasonal and seasonal North Atlantic tropical cyclone (TC) activity, this study further examines tropical versus subtropical impacts on TC activity by considering large-scale influences on boreal summer tropical zonal vertical wind shear (VWS) variability, a key predictor of seasonal TC activity. Through an empirical orthogonal function analysis, it is shown that subtropical AWB activity drives the second mode of variability in tropical zonal VWS, while El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) primarily drives the leading mode of variability. Linear regressions of the four leading principal components against tropical North Atlantic zonal VWS and accumulated cyclone energy show that while the leading mode holds much of the regression strength, some improvement can be achieved with the addition of the second and third modes. Furthermore, an index of AWB-associated VWS anomalies, a proxy for AWB impacts on the large-scale environment, may be a better indicator of summertime VWS anomalies. The utilization of this index may be used to better understand AWB’s contribution to seasonal TC activity.

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Ronald D. Leeper, Jesse E. Bell, and Michael A. Palecki

Abstract

The interpretation of in situ or remotely sensed soil moisture data for drought monitoring is challenged by the sensitivity of these observations to local soil characteristics and seasonal precipitation patterns. These challenges can be overcome by standardizing soil moisture observations. Traditional approaches require a lengthy record (usually 30 years) that most soil monitoring networks lack. Sampling techniques that combine hourly measurements over a temporal window have been used in the literature to generate historical references (i.e., climatology) from shorter-term datasets. This sampling approach was validated on select U.S. Department of Agriculture Soil Climate Analysis Network (SCAN) stations using a Monte Carlo analysis, which revealed that shorter-term (5+ years) hourly climatologies were similar to longer-term (10+ year) hourly means. The sampling approach was then applied to soil moisture observations from the U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN). The sampling method was used to generate multiple measures of soil moisture (mean and median anomalies, standardized median anomaly by interquantile range, and volumetric) that were converted to percentiles using empirical cumulative distribution functions. Overall, time series of soil moisture percentile were very similar among the differing measures; however, there were times of year at individual stations when soil moisture percentiles could have substantial deviations. The use of soil moisture percentiles and counts of threshold exceedance provided more consistent measures of hydrological conditions than observed soil moisture. These results suggest that hourly soil moisture observations can be reasonably standardized and can provide consistent measures of hydrological conditions across spatial and temporal scales.

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Andrew B. Penny, Patrick A. Harr, and Michael M. Bell

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Large uncertainty still remains in determining whether a tropical cloud cluster will develop into a tropical cyclone. During The Observing System Research and Predictability Experiment (THORPEX) Pacific Asian Regional Campaign (T-PARC)/Tropical Cyclone Structure-2008 (TCS-08) field experiment, over 50 tropical cloud clusters were monitored for development, but only 4 developed into a tropical cyclone. One nondeveloping tropical disturbance (TCS025) was closely observed for potential formation during five aircraft research missions, which provided an unprecedented set of observations pertaining to the large-scale and convective environments of a nondeveloping system.

The TCS025 disturbance was comprised of episodic convection that occurred in relation to the diurnal cycle along the eastern extent of a broad low-level trough. The upper-level environment was dominated by two cyclonic cells in the tropical upper-tropospheric trough (TUTT) north of the low-level trough in which the TCS025 circulation was embedded. An in-depth examination of in situ observations revealed that the nondeveloping circulation was asymmetric and vertically misaligned, which led to larger system-relative flow on the mesoscale. Persistent environmental vertical wind shear and horizontal shearing deformation near the circulation kept the system from becoming better organized and appears to have allowed low equivalent potential temperature () air originating from one of the TUTT cells to the north (upshear) to impact the thermodynamic environment of TCS025. This in turn weakened subsequent convection that might otherwise have improved alignment and contributed to the transition of TCS025 to a tropical cyclone.

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Ronald D. Leeper, Jesse E. Bell, Chanté Vines, and Michael Palecki

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Accurate and timely information on soil moisture conditions is an important component to effectively prepare for the damaging aspects of hydrological extremes. The combination of sparsely dense in situ networks and shallow observation depths of remotely sensed soil moisture conditions often force local and regional decision-makers to rely on numerical methods when assessing the current soil state. In this study, soil moisture from a commonly used, high-resolution reanalysis dataset is compared to observations from the U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN). The purpose of this study is to evaluate how well the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) captured the evolution, intensity, and spatial extent of the 2012 drought using both raw volumetric values and standardized anomalies of soil moisture. Comparisons revealed that despite a dry precipitation bias of 22% nationally, NARR had predominantly wetter 5-cm volumetric soil conditions over the growing season (April–September) than observed at USCRN sites across the contiguous United States, with differences more pronounced in drier regions. These biases were partially attributed to differences between the dominant soil characteristics assigned to the modeled grid cells and localized soil characteristics at the USCRN stations. However, NARR was able to successfully capture many aspects of the 2012 drought, including the timing, intensity, and spatial extent when using standardized soil moisture anomalies. Standardizing soil moisture conditions reduced the magnitude of systematic biases between NARR and USCRN in many regions and provided a more robust basis for utilizing modeled soil conditions in assessments of hydrological extremes.

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Robert A. Houze Jr., Wen-Chau Lee, and Michael M. Bell

Abstract

The convection occurring in the tropical depression that became Hurricane Ophelia (2005) was investigated just prior to tropical storm formation. Doppler radar showed a deep, wide, intense convective cell of a type that has been previously thought to occur in intensifying tropical depressions but has not heretofore been documented in detail. The updraft of the cell was 10 km wide, 17 km deep, had updrafts of 10–20 m s−1 throughout its mid- to upper levels, and contained a cyclonic vorticity maximum. The massive convective updraft was maintained by strong positive buoyancy, which was maximum at about the 10-km level, probably aided by latent heat of freezing. Evaporative cooling and precipitation drag occurred in the rain shower of the cell but were insufficient to produce a strong downdraft or gust front outflow to force the updraft. The convective updraft was fed by a layer of strong inflow that was several kilometers deep. Wind-induced turbulence, just above the ocean surface, enriched the equivalent potential temperature of the boundary layer of the inflow air, thus creating an unstable layer with little convective inhibition. This air was raised to its level of free convection when it encountered the denser air in the rainy core of the convection. The updraft motion and latent heat release in the intense cell generated potential vorticity throughout the low to midlevels, and contained a cyclonic vortex at the midlevels. Vorticity generated throughout the depth of the low to midtroposphere within convective updraft cells was subsequently incorporated into a stratiform region attached to the region of active convective cells. The vorticity perturbations at the low to midlevels in convective cells and their attached stratiform regions were available to be axisymmetrized into the larger-scale intensifying depression vortex.

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