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David J. Raymond, G. B. Raga, Christopher S. Bretherton, John Molinari, Carlos López-Carrillo, and Željka Fuchs

Abstract

One of the goals of the East Pacific Investigation of Climate, year 2001 process study (EPIC2001), was to understand the mechanisms controlling the forcing of deep atmospheric convection over the tropical eastern Pacific. An intensive study was made of convection in a 4° × 4° square centered on 10°N, 95°W in September and October of 2001. This is called the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) study region because it encompasses the eastern Pacific intertropical convergence zone. Starting from an analysis of the theoretical possibilities and a plethora of dropsonde, in situ, radar, and satellite data, it is found that newly developing convection occurs where a deep layer of air (of order 1 km deep or deeper) is conditionally unstable with only weak convective inhibition. Shallower conditionally unstable layers are associated with numerous small clouds, but do not seem to produce deep convection.

The occurrence of deep convection over the ITCZ study region is presumably related to the propensity of the environment to produce areas of weak convective inhibition over such a deep layer. Three theoretically possible factors control the formation of such convectively unstable areas: 1) the strength of the total surface heat (or moist entropy) fluxes; 2) the advection of moisture into the region; and 3) temperature anomalies caused by dry adiabatic ascent of the inhibition layer, which lies typically between 700 and 850 mb. The areal fraction covered by such instability is small even on highly convective days.

In the tropical eastern Pacific, it is found that the total surface entropy flux is the most significant of these factors, with a warm layer in the 700–850-mb range, resulting presumably from subsidence, playing an important suppressive role in certain cases. These two factors account for approximately two-thirds of the variance in satellite infrared brightness temperature averaged over the study region. Moisture (or moist entropy) advection appears to be of less importance. Tropical disturbances such as easterly waves, Kelvin waves, and the Madden–Julian oscillation presumably control convection primarily via these two mechanisms during their passage through this region.

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Kristen L. Corbosiero, John Molinari, Anantha R. Aiyyer, and Michael L. Black

Abstract

A portable data recorder attached to the Weather Surveillance Radar-1957 (WSR-57) in Apalachicola, Florida, collected 313 radar scans of the reflectivity structure within 150 km of the center of Hurricane Elena (in 1985) between 1310 and 2130 UTC 1 September. This high temporal and spatial (750 m) resolution dataset was used to examine the evolution of the symmetric and asymmetric precipitation structure in Elena as the storm rapidly strengthened and attained maximum intensity. Fourier decomposition of the reflectivity data into azimuthal wavenumbers revealed that the power in the symmetric (wavenumber 0) component dominated the reflectivity pattern at all times and all radii by at least a factor of 2. The wavenumber 1 asymmetry accounted for less than 20% of the power in the reflectivity field on average and was found to be forced by the environmental vertical wind shear.

The small-amplitude wavenumber 2 asymmetry in the core was associated with the appearance and rotation of an elliptical eyewall. This structure was visible for nearly 2 h and was noted to rotate cyclonically at a speed equal to half of the local tangential wind. Outside of the eyewall, individual peaks in the power in wavenumber 2 were associated with repeated instances of cyclonically rotating, outward-propagating inner spiral rainbands. Four separate convective bands were identified with an average azimuthal velocity of 25 m s−1, or ∼68% of the local tangential wind speed, and an outward radial velocity of 5.2 m s−1. The azimuthal propagation speeds of the elliptical eyewall and inner spiral rainbands were consistent with vortex Rossby wave theory.

The elliptical eyewall and inner spiral rainbands were seen only in the 6-h period prior to peak intensity, when rapid spinup of the vortex had produced an annular vorticity profile, similar to those that have been shown to support barotropic instability. The appearance of an elliptical eyewall was consistent with the breakdown of eyewall vorticity into mesovortices, asymmetric mixing between the eye and eyewall, and a slowing of the intensification rate. The inner spiral rainbands might have arisen from high eyewall vorticity ejected from the core during the mixing process. Alternatively, because the bands were noted to emanate from the vertical shear-forced deep convection in the northern eyewall, they could have formed through the axisymmetrization of the asymmetric diabatically generated eyewall vorticity.

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Sarah D. Ditchek, Kristen L. Corbosiero, Robert G. Fovell, and John Molinari

Abstract

While the frequency and structure of Atlantic basin tropical cyclone diurnal cooling and warming pulses have recently been explored, how often diurnal pulses are associated with deep convection was left unanswered. Here, storm-relative, GridSat-B1, 6-h IR brightness temperature difference fields were supplemented with World Wide Lightning Location Network (WWLLN) data to answer that question. Electrically active, long-lived cooling and warming pulses were defined objectively by determining critical thresholds for the lightning flash density, areal coverage, and longevity within each pulse. Pulses with lightning occurred 61% of the time, with persistently electrically active pulses (≥9 h, ACT) occurring on 38% of pulse days and quasi–electrically active pulses (3–6 h, QUASI) occurring on 23% of pulse days. Electrically inactive pulses (<3 h, INACT) occurred 39% of the time. ACT pulse days had more pulses located right-of-shear, the preferred quadrant for outer-rainband lightning activity, and were associated with more favorable environmental conditions than INACT pulse days. Cooling pulses were more likely to occur in lower-shear environments while warming pulses were more likely to occur in high-shear environments. Finally, while the propagation speeds of ACT and INACT cooling pulses and ACT warming pulses did lend support to the recent gravity wave and tropical squall-line explanations of diurnal pulses, the INACT warming pulses did not and should be studied further.

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John Molinari, Steven Skubis, David Vollaro, Frank Alsheimer, and Hugh E. Willoughby

Abstract

The interaction of marginal Tropical Storm Danny (1985) with an upper-tropospheric positive potential vorticity anomaly was examined. The intensification mechanism proposed earlier for mature Hurricane Elena appears to be valid for Danny as well, despite significant differences in the synoptic-scale environment and in the stage of the tropical cyclone prior to the interaction. Both storms experienced rapid pressure falls as a relatively small-scale positive upper potential vorticity anomaly began to superpose with the low-level tropical cyclone center.

The interaction is described in terms of a complex interplay between vertical wind shear, diabatic heating, and mutual advection among vortices at and below the level of the outflow anticyclone. Despite this complexity, the superposition principle appears to be conceptually useful to describe the intensification of tropical cyclones during such interactions.

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Sarah D. Ditchek, John Molinari, Kristen L. Corbosiero, and Robert G. Fovell

Abstract

Storm-centered IR brightness temperature imagery was used to create 6-h IR brightness temperature difference fields for all Atlantic basin tropical cyclones from 1982 to 2017. Pulses of colder cloud tops were defined objectively by determining critical thresholds for the magnitude of the IR differences, areal coverage of cold-cloud tops, and longevity. Long-lived cooling pulses (≥9 h) were present on 45% of days overall, occurring on 80% of major hurricane days, 64% of minor hurricane days, 46% of tropical storm days, and 24% of tropical depression days. These cooling pulses propagated outward between 8 and 14 m s−1. Short-lived cooling pulses (3–6 h) were found 26.4% of the time. Some days without cooling pulses had events of the opposite sign, which were labeled warming pulses. Long-lived warming pulses occurred 8.5% of the time and propagated outward at the same speed as their cooling pulse counterparts. Only 12.2% of days had no pulses that met the criteria, indicating that pulsing is nearly ubiquitous in tropical cyclones. The environment prior to outward propagation of cooling pulses differed from warming pulse and no pulse days by having more favorable conditions between 0000 and 0300 LT for enhanced inner-core convection: higher SST and ocean heat content, more moisture throughout the troposphere, and stronger low-level vorticity and upper-level divergence.

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Junhong (June) Wang, Kate Young, Terry Hock, Dean Lauritsen, Dalton Behringer, Michael Black, Peter G. Black, James Franklin, Jeff Halverson, John Molinari, Leon Nguyen, Tony Reale, Jeff Smith, Bomin Sun, Qing Wang, and Jun A. Zhang

Abstract

A GPS dropsonde is a scientific instrument deployed from research and operational aircraft that descends through the atmosphere by a parachute. The dropsonde provides high-quality, high-vertical-resolution profiles of atmospheric pressure, temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, and direction from the aircraft flight level to the surface over oceans and remote areas. Since 1996, GPS dropsondes have been routinely dropped during hurricane reconnaissance and surveillance flights to help predict hurricane track and intensity. From 1996 to 2012, NOAA has dropped 13,681 dropsondes inside hurricane eye walls or in the surrounding environment for 120 tropical cyclones (TCs). All NOAA dropsonde data have been collected, reformatted to one format, and consistently and carefully quality controlled using state-of-the-art quality-control (QC) tools. Three value-added products, the vertical air velocity and the radius and azimuth angle of each dropsonde location, are generated and added to the dataset. As a result, a long-term (1996–2012), high-quality, high-vertical-resolution (∼5–15 m) GPS dropsonde dataset is created and made readily available for public access. The dropsonde data collected during hurricane reconnaissance and surveillance flights have improved TC-track and TC-intensity forecasts significantly. The impact of dropsonde data on hurricane studies is summarized. The scientific applications of this long-term dropsonde dataset are highlighted, including characterizing TC structures, studying TC environmental interactions, identifying surface-based ducts in the hurricane environment that affect electromagnetic wave propagation, and validating satellite temperature and humidity profiling products.

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Wayman E. Baker, George D. Emmitt, Franklin Robertson, Robert M. Atlas, John E. Molinari, David A. Bowdle, Jan Paegle, R. Michael Hardesty, Robert T. Menzies, T. N. Krishnamurti, Robert A. Brown, Madison J. Post, John R. Anderson, Andrew C. Lorenc, and James McElroy

The deployment of a space-based Doppler lidar would provide information that is fundamental to advancing the understanding and prediction of weather and climate.

This paper reviews the concepts of wind measurement by Doppler lidar, highlights the results of some observing system simulation experiments with lidar winds, and discusses the important advances in earth system science anticipated with lidar winds.

Observing system simulation experiments, conducted using two different general circulation models, have shown 1) that there is a significant improvement in the forecast accuracy over the Southern Hemisphere and tropical oceans resulting from the assimilation of simulated satellite wind data, and 2) that wind data are significantly more effective than temperature or moisture data in controlling analysis error. Because accurate wind observations are currently almost entirely unavailable for the vast majority of tropical cyclones worldwide, lidar winds have the potential to substantially improve tropical cyclone forecasts. Similarly, to improve water vapor flux divergence calculations, a direct measure of the ageostrophic wind is needed since the present level of uncertainty cannot be reduced with better temperature and moisture soundings alone.

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James D. Doyle, Jonathan R. Moskaitis, Joel W. Feldmeier, Ronald J. Ferek, Mark Beaubien, Michael M. Bell, Daniel L. Cecil, Robert L. Creasey, Patrick Duran, Russell L. Elsberry, William A. Komaromi, John Molinari, David R. Ryglicki, Daniel P. Stern, Christopher S. Velden, Xuguang Wang, Todd Allen, Bradford S. Barrett, Peter G. Black, Jason P. Dunion, Kerry A. Emanuel, Patrick A. Harr, Lee Harrison, Eric A. Hendricks, Derrick Herndon, William Q. Jeffries, Sharanya J. Majumdar, James A. Moore, Zhaoxia Pu, Robert F. Rogers, Elizabeth R. Sanabia, Gregory J. Tripoli, and Da-Lin Zhang

Abstract

Tropical cyclone (TC) outflow and its relationship to TC intensity change and structure were investigated in the Office of Naval Research Tropical Cyclone Intensity (TCI) field program during 2015 using dropsondes deployed from the innovative new High-Definition Sounding System (HDSS) and remotely sensed observations from the Hurricane Imaging Radiometer (HIRAD), both on board the NASA WB-57 that flew in the lower stratosphere. Three noteworthy hurricanes were intensively observed with unprecedented horizontal resolution: Joaquin in the Atlantic and Marty and Patricia in the eastern North Pacific. Nearly 800 dropsondes were deployed from the WB-57 flight level of ∼60,000 ft (∼18 km), recording atmospheric conditions from the lower stratosphere to the surface, while HIRAD measured the surface winds in a 50-km-wide swath with a horizontal resolution of 2 km. Dropsonde transects with 4–10-km spacing through the inner cores of Hurricanes Patricia, Joaquin, and Marty depict the large horizontal and vertical gradients in winds and thermodynamic properties. An innovative technique utilizing GPS positions of the HDSS reveals the vortex tilt in detail not possible before. In four TCI flights over Joaquin, systematic measurements of a major hurricane’s outflow layer were made at high spatial resolution for the first time. Dropsondes deployed at 4-km intervals as the WB-57 flew over the center of Hurricane Patricia reveal in unprecedented detail the inner-core structure and upper-tropospheric outflow associated with this historic hurricane. Analyses and numerical modeling studies are in progress to understand and predict the complex factors that influenced Joaquin’s and Patricia’s unusual intensity changes.

Open access