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Carl J. Schreck III

Abstract

This study examines how convectively coupled Kelvin waves interact with the semi-Lagrangian circulation of easterly waves to modulate tropical cyclogenesis. Recent studies have shown that fewer tropical cyclones form in the three days before passage of the Kelvin wave’s peak convection and more develop in the three days thereafter. Separately, other studies have identified the recirculation of moisture and vorticity within easterly waves using a semi-Lagrangian frame of reference. That framework is achieved by subtracting the easterly wave phase speed from the earth-relative winds. This study combines these recent findings by testing whether the equatorial westerlies from Kelvin waves can help close the semi-Lagrangian circulation.

Past studies have shown that Kelvin waves tilt westward with height in the troposphere such that equatorial westerlies build upward from the surface in the days following the convective peak. This study shows that the easterly wave’s semi-Lagrangian closed circulation grows upward as it intersects the Kelvin wave’s westward tilt. The Kelvin wave’s westerly anomalies reach 500 hPa about three days after the convection has passed, which establishes the deep, vertically aligned easterly wave vortex necessary for tropical cyclogenesis. This study focuses on the eastern Pacific, but similar results are found for the North Atlantic. In other basins, the Kelvin wave accentuates the westerlies from the Madden–Julian oscillation and/or the monsoon trough. Given that Kelvin waves often last weeks and circumnavigate the globe, these results may advance long-range tropical cyclogenesis forecasting.

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Carl J. Schreck III

Abstract

Convectively coupled atmospheric Kelvin waves are among the most prominent sources of synoptic-scale rainfall variability in the tropics, but large uncertainties surround their role in tropical cyclogenesis. This study identifies the modulation of tropical cyclones relative to the passage of a Kelvin wave’s peak rainfall (i.e., its crest) in each basin. Tropical cyclogenesis is generally inhibited for 3 days before the crest and enhanced for 3 days afterward. Composites of storms forming in the most favorable lags illustrate the dynamical impacts of the waves. In most basins, the tropical cyclone actually forms during the convectively suppressed phase of the wave. The 850-hPa equatorial westerly anomalies provide the cyclonic vorticity for the nascent storm, and 200-hPa easterly anomalies enhance the outflow. The wind anomalies persist at both levels longer than the Kelvin wave’s period and are often related to the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO). The onset of these wind anomalies occurs with the Kelvin wave passage, while the MJO apparently establishes their duration. Many of the composites also show evidence of an easterly wave from which the tropical cyclone develops. The composite easterly wave amplifies or even initiates within the Kelvin wave crest. These results show the importance of Kelvin waves interacting with the MJO and easterly waves during tropical cyclogenesis. Given that Kelvin waves often circumnavigate the globe, these results show promise for long-range forecasting of tropical cyclogenesis in all basins.

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Carl J. Schreck III and John Molinari

Abstract

Previous studies have found that twin tropical cyclogenesis typically occurs 2–3 times a year in the Pacific Ocean. During October 1997, however, three sets of twin tropical cyclones developed in the central Pacific within a single month. Tropical cyclone archives indicate that this is the only such outbreak from 1969 to 2006. This case study explores the background and synoptic conditions that led to this unique event. All three twin tropical cyclogenesis events occurred within a broad and long-lasting envelope of warm water, low surface pressure, active convection, and weak or easterly vertical shear. Westerly winds at the equator and trade easterlies farther poleward created strips of cyclonic vorticity through a deep layer. A low-pass filter showed that these favorable conditions shifted eastward with time at 1–2 m s−1. In addition to the gradual eastward movement, the equatorial westerlies and convection were modulated by higher-frequency westward propagation. These anomalies appear to have been associated with convectively coupled n = 1 equatorial Rossby waves. The twin tropical cyclones formed only when the sum of the two modes produced equatorial westerlies in excess of 5 m s−1 and brightness temperature below 270 K. Applications of these results are proposed for the operational prediction of twin tropical cyclogenesis.

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Carl J. Schreck III and John Molinari

Abstract

The Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) influences tropical cyclone formation around the globe. Convectively coupled Kelvin waves are often embedded within the MJO, but their role in tropical cyclogenesis remains uncertain. This case study identifies the influences of the MJO and a series of Kelvin waves on the formation of two tropical cyclones.

Typhoons Rammasun and Chataan developed in the western North Pacific on 28 June 2002. Two weeks earlier, conditions had been unfavorable for tropical cyclogenesis because of uniform trade easterlies and a lack of organized convection. The easterlies gave way to equatorial westerlies as the convective envelope of the Madden–Julian oscillation moved into the region. A series of three Kelvin waves modulated the development of the westerlies. Cyclonic potential vorticity (PV) developed in a strip between the growing equatorial westerlies and the persistent trade easterlies farther poleward. Rammasun and Chataan emerged from the apparent breakdown of this strip.

The cyclonic PV developed in association with diabatic heating from both the MJO and the Kelvin waves. The tropical cyclones also developed during the largest superposition of equatorial westerlies from the MJO and the Kelvin waves. This chain of events suggests that the MJO and the Kelvin waves each played a role in the development of Rammasun and Chataan.

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Carl J. Schreck III, Kenneth R. Knapp, and James P. Kossin

Abstract

Using the International Best Track Archive for Climate Stewardship (IBTrACS), the climatology of tropical cyclones is compared between two global best track datasets: 1) the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) subset of IBTrACS (IBTrACS-WMO) and 2) a combination of data from the National Hurricane Center and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (NHC+JTWC). Comparing the climatologies between IBTrACS-WMO and NHC+JTWC highlights some of the heterogeneities inherent in these datasets for the period of global satellite coverage 1981–2010. The results demonstrate the sensitivity of these climatologies to the choice of best track dataset. Previous studies have examined best track heterogeneities in individual regions, usually the North Atlantic and west Pacific. This study puts those regional issues into their global context. The differences between NHC+JTWC and IBTrACS-WMO are greatest in the west Pacific, where the strongest storms are substantially weaker in IBTrACS-WMO. These disparities strongly affect the global measures of tropical cyclone activity because 30% of the world’s tropical cyclones form in the west Pacific. Because JTWC employs similar procedures throughout most of the globe, the comparisons in this study highlight differences between WMO agencies. For example, NHC+JTWC has more 96-kt (~49 m s−1) storms than IBTrACS-WMO in the west Pacific but fewer in the Australian region. This discrepancy probably points to differing operational procedures between the WMO agencies in the two regions. Without better documentation of historical analysis procedures, the only way to remedy these heterogeneities will be through systematic reanalysis.

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Michael J. Ventrice, Christopher D. Thorncroft, and Carl J. Schreck III

Abstract

High-amplitude convectively coupled equatorial atmospheric Kelvin waves (CCKWs) are explored over the tropical Atlantic during the boreal summer (1989–2009). Focus is given to the atmospheric environmental conditions that are important for tropical cyclogenesis.

CCKWs are characterized by deep westerly vertical wind shear to the east of its convectively active phase and easterly vertical wind shear to the west of it. This dynamical signature increases vertical wind shear over the western tropical Atlantic ahead of the convectively active phase, and reduces vertical wind shear after its passage. The opposite is true over the eastern tropical Atlantic where the climatological vertical wind shear is easterly.

Positive total column water vapor (TCWV) anomalies progress eastward with the convectively active phase of the CCKW, whereas negative TCWV anomalies progress eastward with the convectively suppressed phase. During the passage of the convectively active phase of the CCKW, a zonally oriented strip of low-level cyclonic relative vorticity is generated over the tropical Atlantic. Two days later, this strip becomes more wavelike and moves back toward the west. This signature resembles a train of westward-moving easterly waves and suggests CCKWs may influence such events.

Strong CCKWs over the tropical Atlantic tend to occur during the decay of the active convection associated with the Madden–Julian oscillation over the Pacific. This relationship could be used to provide better long-range forecasts of tropical convective patterns and Atlantic tropical cyclogenesis.

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Anantha Aiyyer, Ademe Mekonnen, and Carl J. Schreck III

Abstract

The impact of localized convection associated with tropical cyclones (TCs) on activity ascribed to equatorial waves is estimated. An algorithm is used to remove outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) signal in the vicinity of observed tropical cyclones, and equatorial wave modes are extracted using the standard wavenumber–frequency decomposition method. The results suggest that climatological activity of convection-coupled equatorial waves is overestimated where TC tracks are densest. The greatest impact is found for equatorial Rossby (ER)- and tropical depression (TD)-type waves followed by the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO). The basins most affected are the eastern and western North Pacific Ocean where, on average, TCs may contribute up to 10%–15% of the climatological wave amplitude variance in these modes. In contrast, Kelvin waves are least impacted by the projection of TCs. The results are likely relevant for studies on the climatology of equatorial waves in observations and global climate model simulations and for those examining individual cases of TC genesis modulated by equatorial wave activity.

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Carl J. Schreck III, John Molinari, and Anantha Aiyyer

Abstract

This study investigates the number of tropical cyclone formations that can be attributed to the enhanced convection from equatorial waves within each basin. Tropical depression (TD)-type disturbances (i.e., easterly waves) were the primary tropical cyclone precursors over the Northern Hemisphere basins, particularly the eastern North Pacific and the Atlantic. In the Southern Hemisphere, however, the number of storms attributed to TD-type disturbances and equatorial Rossby waves were roughly equivalent. Equatorward of 20°N, tropical cyclones formed without any equatorial wave precursor most often over the eastern North Pacific and least often over the western North Pacific.

The Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) was an important tropical cyclone precursor over the north Indian, south Indian, and western North Pacific basins. The MJO also affected tropical cyclogenesis by modulating the amplitudes of higher-frequency waves. Each wave type reached the attribution threshold 1.5 times more often, and tropical cyclogenesis was 3 times more likely, within positive MJO-filtered rainfall anomalies than within negative anomalies. The greatest MJO modulation was observed for storms attributed to Kelvin waves over the north Indian Ocean.

The large rainfall rates associated with tropical cyclones can alter equatorial wave–filtered anomalies. This study quantifies the contamination over each basin. Tropical cyclones contributed more than 20% of the filtered variance for each wave type over large potions of every basin except the South Pacific. The largest contamination, exceeding 60%, occurred for the TD band near the Philippines. To mitigate the contamination, the tropical cyclone–related anomalies were removed before filtering in this study.

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Carl J. Schreck III, John Molinari, and Karen I. Mohr

Abstract

Tropical cyclogenesis is attributed to an equatorial wave when the filtered rainfall anomaly exceeds a threshold value at the genesis location. It is argued that 0 mm day−1 (simply requiring a positive anomaly) is too small a threshold because unrelated noise can produce a positive anomaly. A threshold of 6 mm day−1 is too large because two-thirds of storms would have no precursor disturbance. Between these extremes, consistent results are found for a range of thresholds from 2 to 4 mm day−1.

Roughly twice as many tropical cyclones are attributed to tropical depression (TD)-type disturbances as to equatorial Rossby waves, mixed Rossby–gravity waves, or Kelvin waves. The influence of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) is even smaller. The use of variables such as vorticity and vertical wind shear in other studies gives a larger contribution for the MJO. It is suggested that its direct influence on the rainfall in forming tropical cyclones is less than for other variables.

The impacts of tropical cyclone–related precipitation anomalies are also presented. Tropical cyclones can contribute more than 20% of the warm-season rainfall and 50% of its total variance. The influence of tropical cyclones on the equatorial wave spectrum is generally small. The exception occurs in shorter-wavelength westward-propagating waves, for which tropical cyclones represent up to 27% of the variance. Tropical cyclones also significantly contaminate wave-filtered rainfall anomalies in their immediate vicinity. To mitigate this effect, the tropical cyclone–related anomalies were removed before filtering in this study.

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Carl J. Schreck III, Matthew A. Janiga, and Stephen Baxter

Abstract

This study applies Fourier filtering to a combination of rainfall estimates from TRMM and forecasts from the CFSv2. The combined data are filtered for low-frequency (LF, ≥120 days) variability, the MJO, and convectively coupled equatorial waves. The filtering provides insight into the sources of skill for the CFSv2. The LF filter, which encapsulates persistent anomalies generally corresponding with SSTs, has the largest contribution to forecast skill beyond week 2. Variability within the equatorial Pacific is dominated by its response to ENSO, such that both the unfiltered and the LF-filtered forecasts are skillful over the Pacific through the entire 45-day CFSv2 forecast. In fact, the LF forecasts in that region are more skillful than the unfiltered forecasts or any combination of the filters. Verifying filtered against unfiltered observations shows that subseasonal variability has very little opportunity to contribute to skill over the equatorial Pacific. Any subseasonal variability produced by the model is actually detracting from the skill there. The MJO primarily contributes to CFSv2 skill over the Indian Ocean, particularly during March–May and MJO phases 2–5. However, the model misses opportunities for the MJO to contribute to skill in other regions. Convectively coupled equatorial Rossby waves contribute to skill over the Indian Ocean during December–February and the Atlantic Ocean during September–November. Convectively coupled Kelvin waves show limited potential skill for predicting weekly averaged rainfall anomalies since they explain a relatively small percent of the observed variability.

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