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Michael J. Bell

Abstract

The quasigeostrophic equations formulated using the Charney–Phillips vertical staggering of variables are well known to possess an analog of the form of conservation of potential vorticity. It is shown that a similar analog is enjoyed by the quasigeostrophic equations formulated using the modified Lorenz staggering of variables.

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Michael M. Bell and Michael T. Montgomery

Abstract

Unprecedented observations of Hurricane Isabel (2003) at category 5 intensity were collected from 12 to 14 September. This study presents a detailed analysis of the inner-core structure, atmospheric boundary layer, sea surface temperature, and outflow layer of a superintense tropical cyclone using high-resolution in situ flight-level, NCAR GPS dropwindsonde, Doppler radar, and satellite measurements. The analysis of the dropwindsonde and in situ data includes a comprehensive discussion of the uncertainties associated with this observational dataset and provides an estimate of the storm-relative axisymmetric inner-core structure using Barnes objective analysis. An assessment of gradient and thermal wind balance in the inner core is also presented. The axisymmetric data composites presented in this study suggest that Isabel built a reservoir of high moist entropy air by sea-to-air latent heat flux inside the low-level eye that was utilized as an additional energy source to nearly maintain its extreme intensity even after crossing the cool wake of Hurricane Fabian. It is argued here that the combined mean and asymmetric eddy flux of high moist entropy air from the low-level eye into the eyewall represents an additional power source or “turbo boost” to the hurricane heat engine. 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 for the given environmental conditions on all three days. This discrepancy between a priori potential intensity theory and observations may be as high as 35 m s−1 on 13 September.

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Scott W. Powell and Michael M. Bell

Abstract

Hurricane Matthew locally generated more than 400 mm of rainfall on 8–9 October 2016 over the eastern Carolinas and Virginia as it transitioned into an extratropical cyclone. The heaviest precipitation occurred along a swath situated up to 100–200 km inland from the coast and collocated with enhanced low-tropospheric frontogenesis. Analyses from version 3 of the Rapid Refresh (RAPv3) model indicate that rapid frontogenesis occurred over eastern North and South Carolina and Virginia on 8 October, largely over a 12-h time period between 1200 UTC 8 October and 0000 UTC 9 October. The heaviest rainfall in Matthew occurred when and where spiral rainbands intersected the near-surface front, which promoted the lift of conditionally unstable, moist air. Parallel to the spiral rainbands, conditionally unstable low-tropospheric warm, moist oceanic air was advected inland, and the instability was apparently released as the warm air mass rose over the front. Precipitation in the spiral rainbands intensified on 9 October as the temperature gradient along the near-surface front rapidly increased. Unlike in Hurricane Floyd over the mid-Atlantic states, rainfall totals within the spiral rainbands of Matthew as they approached the near-surface front evidently were not enhanced by release of conditional symmetric instability. However, conditional symmetric instability release in the midtroposphere may have enhanced rainfall 200 km northwest of the near-surface front. Finally, although weak cold-air damming occurred prior to heavy rainfall, damming dissipated prior to frontogenesis and did not impact rainfall totals.

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Xiaowen Tang, Wen-Chau Lee, and Michael Bell

Abstract

The principal rainband in tropical cyclones is currently depicted as a solitary and continuous precipitation region. However, the airborne radar observations of the principal rainband in Typhoon Hagupit (2008) reveal multiple subrainband structures. These subbands possess many characteristics of the squall lines with trailing stratiform in the midlatitudes and are different from those documented in previous principal rainband studies. The updraft and reflectivity cores are upright and elevated. The updraft is fed by a low-level radial outflow from the inner side. The tangential wind speed shows a clear midlevel jet on the inner side of the reflectivity core. Except for the structural similarities, the dynamics of the subbands is also similar to the squall lines. The local environment near the subbands shows little convective inhibition, modest instability, and vertical wind shear. The temperature retrieval shows a cold pool structure in the stratiform precipitation region. The estimated vertical wind shear induced by the cold pool is close to that of the local environment. The structural and dynamic similarities to the squall lines imply that the variation of principal rainbands is subjected to convective-scale dynamics related to the local environment in addition to storm-scale dynamics. The subbands show positive impacts to the vortex intensity in terms of potential vorticity redistribution and absolute angular momentum advection. The positive impacts are closely related to specific structural characteristics of the subbands, which suggests the importance of understanding the convective-scale structure and dynamics of the principal rainband.

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Chaehyeon C. Nam and Michael M. Bell

Abstract

The impact of vertical wind shear (VWS) on tropical cyclogenesis is examined from the synoptic to mesoscales using airborne Doppler radar observations of predepression Hagupit during the Tropical Cyclone Structure 2008 (TCS08)/THORPEX Pacific Area Regional Campaign (T-PARC) field campaigns. The high temporal and spatial resolution observations reveal complex localized convective and vortical characteristics of a predepression in a sheared environment. Predepression Hagupit interacted with an upper-tropospheric trough during the observation period. The strong deep-layer VWS (>20 m s−1) had a negative impact on the development through misalignment of the low- and midlevel circulations and dry air intrusion. However, the low-level circulation persisted, and the system ultimately formed into a tropical cyclone after it left the high-shear zone. Here we propose that a key process that enabled the predepression to survive through the upper-tropospheric trough interaction was persistent vorticity amplification on the meso-γ scale that was aggregated on the meso-α scale within the wave pouch. Multi-Doppler wind analysis indicates that cumulus congestus tilted the low-level horizontal vorticity into the vertical in the early stage of convective life cycle, followed by stretching from maturing deep convection. Variations in low-level VWS on the meso-β scale affect convective organization and horizontal vorticity generation. The results provide new insights into multiscale processes during TC genesis and the interactions of a predepression with VWS at various spatial scales.

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

Abstract

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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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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Neil T. Sanger, Michael T. Montgomery, Roger K. Smith, and Michael M. Bell

Abstract

An observational study of tropical cyclone intensification is performed using dropsondes, in situ flight-level data, satellite imagery, and Electra Doppler Radar (ELDORA) during the spinup of Tropical Storm Jangmi (2008) in the western North Pacific. This event was observed with research aircraft during the Tropical Cyclone Structure 2008 (TCS08) field experiment over the course of 3 days as Jangmi intensified rapidly from a tropical storm to a supertyphoon. The dropsonde analysis indicates that the peak azimuthally averaged storm-relative tangential wind speed occurs persistently within the boundary layer throughout the spinup period and suggests that significant supergradient winds are present near and just within the radius of maximum tangential winds. An examination of the ELDORA data in Tropical Storm Jangmi reveals multiple rotating updrafts near the developing eye beneath cold cloud top temperatures ≤−65°C. In particular, there is a 12-km-wide, upright updraft with a peak velocity of 9 m s−1 with collocated strong low-level (z < 2 km) convergence of 2 × 10−3 s−1 and intense relative vorticity of 4 × 10−3 s−1. The analysis of the corresponding infrared satellite imagery suggests that vortical updrafts are common before and during rapid intensification. The findings of this study support a recent paradigm of tropical cyclone intensification in which rotating convective clouds are important elements in the spinup process. In a system-scale view of this process, the maximum tangential wind is found within the boundary layer, where the tangential wind becomes supergradient before the air ascends into the eyewall updraft.

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Jonathan Martinez, Michael M. Bell, Jonathan L. Vigh, and Robert F. Rogers

Abstract

A comprehensive examination of tropical cyclone (TC) kinematic and thermodynamic structure in the Atlantic basin is created from the Extended Flight Level Dataset for Tropical Cyclones (FLIGHT+, version 1.1). In situ data collected at the 700-hPa flight level by NOAA WP-3D and USAF WC-130 aircraft from 1999 to 2012 are analyzed. A total of 233 azimuthal mean profiles comprising 1498 radial legs are stratified by TC intensity and 12-h intensity change. A matrix of composite structures is created for minor (category 1 and 2) and major (category 3 and above) hurricanes that are intensifying [intensity increase ≥10 kt (12 h)−1], steady state [intensity change between ±5 kt (12 h)−1], and weakening [intensity decrease kt (12 h)−1]. Additional considerations to the impacts of age on TC structure are given as well. Axisymmetric radial composites reveal that intensifying TCs have statistically significant structural differences from TCs that are steady state or weakening, but that these differences also depend on the intensity of the TC. Intensifying TCs (both minor and major hurricanes) are characterized by steep tangential wind gradients radially inward of the radius of maximum tangential wind (RMW) that contribute to a ringlike structure of vorticity and inertial stability. Tangential wind structural differences are more pronounced in the eye of minor hurricanes compared to major hurricanes. Intensifying TCs are found to have higher inner- and outer-core moisture compared to steady-state and weakening TCs. Furthermore, intensifying major hurricanes possess drier eyes compared to steady-state and weakening major hurricanes.

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