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Patrick Duran and John Molinari

Abstract

High-vertical-resolution rawinsondes were used to document the existence of low–bulk Richardson number (R b) layers in tropical cyclones. The largest frequency of low R b existed in the inner 200 km at the 13.5-km level. This peak extended more than 1000 km from the storm center and sloped downward with radius. The presence of an extensive upper-tropospheric low-R b layer supports the assumption of Richardson number criticality in tropical cyclone outflow by Emanuel and Rotunno.

The low-R b layers were found to be more common in hurricanes than in tropical depressions and tropical storms. This sensitivity to intensity was attributed to a reduction of upper-tropospheric static stability as tropical cyclones intensify. The causes of this destabilization include upper-level cooling that is related to an elevation of the tropopause in hurricanes and greater longwave radiative warming in the well-developed hurricane cirrus canopy. Decreased mean static stability makes the production of low R b by gravity waves and other perturbations easier to attain.

The mean static stability and vertical wind shear do not exhibit diurnal variability. There is some indication, however, that low Richardson numbers are more common in the early morning than in the early evening, especially near the 200–300-km radius. The location and timing of this diurnal variability is consistent with previous studies that found a diurnal cycle of infrared brightness temperature and rainfall in tropical cyclones.

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Patrick Duran and John Molinari

Abstract

Upper-level static stability (N 2) variations can influence the evolution of the transverse circulation and potential vorticity in intensifying tropical cyclones (TCs). This paper examines these variations during the rapid intensification (RI) of a simulated TC. Over the eye, N 2 near the tropopause decreases and the cold-point tropopause rises by up to 4 km at the storm center. Outside of the eye, N 2 increases considerably just above the cold-point tropopause and the tropopause remains near its initial level. A budget analysis reveals that the advection terms, which include differential advection of potential temperature θ and direct advection of N 2, are important throughout the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere. These terms are particularly pronounced within the eye, where they destabilize the layer near and above the cold-point tropopause. Outside of the eye, a radial–vertical circulation develops during RI, with strong outflow below the tropopause and weak inflow above. Differential advection of θ near the outflow jet provides forcing for stabilization below the outflow maximum and destabilization above. Turbulence induced by vertical wind shear on the flanks of the outflow maximum also modifies the vertical stability profile. Meanwhile, radiative cooling tendencies at the top of the cirrus canopy generally act to destabilize the upper troposphere and stabilize the lower stratosphere. The results suggest that turbulence and radiation, alongside differential advection, play fundamental roles in the upper-level N 2 evolution of TCs. These N 2 tendencies could have implications for both the TC diurnal cycle and the tropopause-layer potential vorticity evolution in TCs.

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John Molinari, Patrick Duran, and David Vollaro

Abstract

Dropsondes from the NOAA G-IV aircraft were used to examine the presence of low bulk Richardson numbers R B in tropical cyclones. At least one 400-m layer above z = 7.5 km exhibited R B < 1 in 96% of the sondes and R B ≤ 0.25 in 35% of the sondes. The latter represent almost certain turbulence. Sondes from major Hurricane Ivan (2004) were examined in detail. Turbulent layers fell into three broad groups. The first was found below cloud base near the edge of the central dense overcast (CDO) where relative humidity fell below 40%. Near-zero static stability existed within the turbulent layer with stability and shear maxima above it. This structure strongly resembled that seen previously from sublimation of precipitation beneath cloud base. The second type of turbulent layer was located within CDO clouds in the upper troposphere and was due almost entirely to near-zero static stability. This most likely arose as a result of cooling via longwave flux divergence below CDO top. The third type of turbulent layer existed well outside the CDO and was produced by large local vertical wind shear. The shear maxima associated with the beneath-cloud and outside-CDO turbulent layers produced a sharp transition from weak inflow below to strong outflow above. The results suggest that the CDO creates its own distinctive stability profile that strongly influences the distribution of turbulence and the transition to outflow in tropical cyclones.

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