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John Molinari, Michaela Rosenmayer, David Vollaro, and Sarah D. Ditchek

Abstract

The NOAA G-IV aircraft routinely measures vertical aircraft acceleration from the inertial navigation system at 1 Hz. The data provide a measure of turbulence on a 250-m horizontal scale over a layer from 12.8- to 14.8-km elevation. Turbulence in this layer of tropical cyclones was largest by 35%–40% in the inner 200 km of radius and decreased monotonically outward to the 1000-km radius. Turbulence in major hurricanes exceeded that in weaker tropical cyclones. Turbulence data points were divided among three regions of the tropical cyclone: cirrus canopy; outside the cirrus canopy; and a transition zone between them. Without exception, turbulence was greater within the canopy and weaker outside the canopy. Nighttime turbulence exceeded daytime turbulence for all radii, especially within the cirrus canopy, implicating radiative forcing as a factor in turbulence generation. A case study of widespread turbulence in Hurricane Ivan (2004) showed that interactions between the hurricane outflow channel and westerlies to the north created a region of absolute vorticity of −6 × 10−5 s−1 in the upper troposphere. Outflow accelerated from the storm center into this inertially unstable region, and visible evidence for turbulence and transverse bands of cirrus appeared radially inward of the inertially unstable region. It is argued that both cloud-radiative forcing and the development of inertial instability within a narrow outflow layer were responsible for the turbulence. In contrast, a second case study (Isabel 2003) displayed strong near-core turbulence in the presence of large positive absolute vorticity and no local inertial instability. Peak turbulence occurred 100 km downwind of the eyewall convection.

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