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Michael M. Bell and Michael T. Montgomery

Abstract

Observations from the Pre-Depression Investigation of Cloud Systems in the Tropics (PREDICT), Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP), and Intensity Forecast Experiment (IFEX) field campaigns are analyzed to investigate the mesoscale processes leading to the tropical cyclogenesis of Hurricane Karl (2010). Research aircraft missions provided Doppler radar, in situ flight level, and dropsonde data documenting the structural changes of the predepression disturbance. Following the pre-Karl wave pouch, variational analyses at the meso-β and meso-α scales suggest that the convective cycle in Karl alternately built the low- and midlevel circulations leading to genesis episodically rather than through a sustained lowering of the convective mass flux from increased stabilization. Convective bursts that erupt in the vorticity-rich environment of the recirculating pouch region enhance the low-level meso-β- and meso-α-scale circulation through vortex stretching. As the convection wanes, the resulting stratiform precipitation strengthens the midlevel circulation through convergence associated with ice microphysical processes, protecting the disturbance from the intrusion of dry environmental air. Once the column saturation fraction returns to a critical value, a subsequent convective burst below the midlevel circulation further enhances the low-level circulation, and the convective cycle repeats. The analyses suggest that the onset of deep convection and associated low-level spinup were closely related to the coupling of the vorticity and moisture fields at low and midlevels. Our interpretation of the observational analysis presented in this study reaffirms a primary role of deep convection in the genesis process and provides a hypothesis for the supporting role of stratiform precipitation and the midlevel vortex.

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Xiaowen Tang, Wen-Chau Lee, and Michael Bell

Abstract

This study examines the structure and dynamics of Typhoon Hagupit’s (2008) principal rainband using airborne radar and dropsonde observations. The convection in Hagupit’s principal rainband was organized into a well-defined line with trailing stratiform precipitation on the inner side. Individual convective cells had intense updrafts and downdrafts and were aligned in a wavelike pattern along the line. The line-averaged vertical cross section possessed a slightly inward-tilting convective core and two branches of low-level inflow feeding the convection. The result of a thermodynamic retrieval showed a pronounced cold pool behind the convective line. The horizontal and vertical structures of this principal rainband show characteristics that are different than the existing conceptual model and are more similar to squall lines and outer rainbands.

The unique convective structure of Hagupit’s principal rainband was associated with veering low-level vertical wind shear and large convective instability in the environment. A quantitative assessment of the cold pool strength showed that it was quasi balanced with that of the low-level vertical wind shear. The balanced state and the structural characteristics of convection in Hagupit’s principal rainband were dynamically consistent with the theory of cold pool dynamics widely applied to strong and long-lived squall lines. The analyses suggest that cold pool dynamics played a role in determining the principal rainband structure in addition to storm-scale vortex dynamics.

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Annette M. Boehm and Michael M. Bell

Abstract

The newly developed SAMURAI-TR is used to estimate three-dimensional temperature and pressure perturbations in Hurricane Rita on 23 September 2005 from multi-Doppler radar data during the RAINEX field campaign. These are believed to be the first fully three-dimensional gridded thermodynamic observations from a TC. Rita was a major hurricane at this time and was affected by 13 m s−1 deep-layer vertical wind shear. Analysis of the contributions of the kinematic and retrieved thermodynamic fields to different azimuthal wavenumbers suggests the interpretation of eyewall convective forcing within a three-level framework of balanced, quasi-balanced, and unbalanced motions. The axisymmetric, wavenumber-0 structure was approximately in thermal-wind balance, resulting in a large pressure drop and temperature increase toward the center. The wavenumber-1 structure was determined by the interaction of the storm with environmental vertical wind shear resulting in a quasi-balance between shear and shear-induced kinematic and thermo-dynamic perturbations. The observed wavenumber-1 thermodynamic asymmetries corroborate results of previous studies on the response of a vortex tilted by shear, and add new evidence that the vertical motion is nearly hydrostatic on the wavenumber-1 scale. Higher-order wavenumbers were associated with unbalanced motions and convective cells within the eyewall. The unbalanced vertical acceleration was positively correlated with buoyant forcing from thermal perturbations and negatively correlated with perturbation pressure gradients relative to the balanced vortex.

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Dandan Tao, Richard Rotunno, and Michael Bell

Abstract

This study revisits the axisymmetric tropical cyclone (TC) theory from D. K. Lilly’s unpublished manuscript (Lilly model) and compares it to axisymmetric TC simulations from a nonhydrostatic cloud model. Analytic solutions of the Lilly model are presented through simplifying assumptions. Sensitivity experiments varying the sea surface, boundary layer and tropopause temperatures, and the absolute angular momentum (M) at some outer radius in the Lilly model show that these variations influence the radial structure of the tangential wind profile V(r) at the boundary layer top. However, these parameter variations have little effect on the inner-core normalized tangential wind, V(r/r m)/V m, where V m is the maximum tangential wind at radius r m. The outflow temperature T as a function of M (or saturation entropy s*) is found to be the only input that changes the normalized tangential wind radial structure in the Lilly model. In contrast with the original assumption of the Lilly model that T (s*) is determined by the environment, it is argued here that T (s*) is determined by the TC interior flow under the environmental constraint of the tropopause height. The present study shows that the inner-core tangential wind radial structure from the Lilly model generally agrees well with nonhydrostatic cloud model simulations except in the eyewall region where the Lilly model tends to underestimate the tangential winds due to its balanced-dynamics assumptions. The wind structure in temperature–radius coordinates from the Lilly model can largely reproduce the numerical simulation results. Though the Lilly model is based on a number of simplifying assumptions, this paper shows its utility in understanding steady-state TC intensity and structure.

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

Abstract

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

Abstract

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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Benjamin C. Trabing, Michael M. Bell, and Bonnie R. Brown

Abstract

Potential intensity theory predicts that the upper-tropospheric temperature acts as an important constraint on tropical cyclone (TC) intensity. The physical mechanisms through which the upper troposphere impacts TC intensity and structure have not been fully explored, however, due in part to limited observations and the complex interactions between clouds, radiation, and TC dynamics. In this study, idealized Weather Research and Forecasting Model ensembles initialized with a combination of three different tropopause temperatures and with no radiation, longwave radiation only, and full diurnal radiation are used to examine the physical mechanisms in the TC–upper-tropospheric temperature relationship on weather time scales. Simulated TC intensity and structure are strongly sensitive to colder tropopause temperatures using only longwave radiation, but are less sensitive using full radiation and no radiation. Colder tropopause temperatures result in deeper convection and increased ice mass aloft in all cases, but are more intense only when radiation was included. Deeper convection leads to increased local longwave cooling rates but reduced top-of-the-atmosphere outgoing longwave radiation, such that the total radiative heat sink is reduced from a Carnot engine perspective in stronger storms. We hypothesize that a balanced response in the secondary circulation described by the Eliassen equation arises from upper-troposphere radiative cooling anomalies that lead to stronger tangential winds. The results of this study further suggest that radiation and cloud–radiative feedbacks have important impacts on weather time scales.

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Dandan Tao, Kerry Emanuel, Fuqing Zhang, Richard Rotunno, Michael M. Bell, and Robert G. Nystrom

Abstract

The criteria and assumptions that were used to derive the steady-state tropical cyclone intensity and structure theory of Emanuel and Rotunno are assessed using three-dimensional convection-allowing simulations using the Weather Research and Forecasting Model. One real-data case of Hurricane Patricia (2015) and two idealized simulations with and without vertical wind shear are examined. In all three simulations, the gradient wind balance is valid in the inner-core region above the boundary layer. The angular momentum M and saturation entropy surfaces s* near the top of the boundary layer, in the outflow region and along the angular momentum surface that passes the low-level radius of maximum wind M RMW are nearly congruent, satisfying the criterion of slantwise moist neutrality in the vicinity of M RMW. The theoretically derived maximum wind magnitude above the boundary layer compares well with the simulated maximum tangential wind and gradient wind using the azimuthally averaged pressure field during the intensification and quasi-steady state of the simulated storms. The Richardson number analysis of the simulated storms shows that small Richardson number (0 < Ri ≤1) exists in the outflow region, related to both large local shear and small static stability. This criticality of the Richardson number indicates the existence of small-scale turbulence in the outflow region. We also show that the stratification of temperature along the M surfaces at the outflow region for steady-state hurricanes is approximately applicable in these three-dimensional simulations, while the radial distribution of gradient wind is qualitatively comparable to the theoretical radial profiles. Some caveats regarding the theory are also discussed.

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Jonathan Martinez, Michael M. Bell, Robert F. Rogers, and James D. Doyle

Abstract

Operational numerical models failed to predict the record-setting rapid intensification and rapid overwater weakening of Hurricane Patricia (2015) in the eastern North Pacific basin, resulting in large intensity forecast errors. In an effort to better understand the mesoscale processes contributing to Patricia’s rapid intensity changes, we analyze high-resolution aircraft observations collected on 22–23 October. Spline-based variational analyses are created from observations collected via in situ measurements, Doppler radar, and full-tropospheric dropsonde profiles as part of the Office of Naval Research Tropical Cyclone Intensity (TCI) experiment and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Intensity Forecasting Experiment (IFEX). We present the first full-tropospheric calculation of the dry, axisymmetric Ertel’s potential vorticity (PV) in a tropical cyclone without relying on balance assumptions. Detailed analyses reveal the formation of a “hollow tower” PV structure as Patricia rapidly approached its maximum intensity, and a subsequent breakdown of this structure during Patricia’s rapid overwater weakening phase. Transforming the axisymmetric PV analyses from radius–height to potential radius–isentropic coordinates reveals that Patricia’s rapid intensification was closely related to the distribution of diabatic heating and eddy mixing. During Patricia’s rapid overwater weakening phase, eddy mixing processes are hypothesized to be the primary factor rearranging the PV distribution near the eye–eyewall region, diluting the PV previously confined to the hollow tower while approximately conserving the absolute circulation.

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