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Badrinath Nagarajan and Anantha R. Aiyyer

Abstract

The quality of the ECMWF operational analyses is evaluated against independent upper-air sounding data collected during the Joint Air–Sea Monsoon Interaction Experiment (JASMINE; April–May 1999) and the Indian Ocean Experiment (INDOEX; February–March 1999).

Statistics of the difference between observations and analyses are compiled for temperature, humidity, and wind speed. The results show that the analyzed temperature has a cold bias between 1000 and 750 hPa. However, in the upper troposphere, a warm bias occurs between 350 and 150 hPa, while a cold bias is seen above 150 hPa. Compared to the observations, the analyzed humidity is lower between 1000 and 950 hPa and higher between 950 and 750 hPa. The analyzed wind speeds are close to observations over much of the troposphere, except near the tropopause, where they are overestimated by 1–2 m s−1 in the analyses. The low-level (1000– 750 hPa) biases in moisture and temperature in the ECMWF analyses over the Indian Ocean are similar to those reported for the tropical Pacific Ocean in past studies.

The occurrence of a cold and dry bias in the lowest 50 hPa indicates reduced convective available potential energy, which will render difficult the initiation and development of convection in numerical models initialized with these analyses. The moisture biases arise most likely because of the poor fit to humidity observations by the four-dimensional variational data assimilation scheme. This suggests that a better fit to humidity observations will yield an improved water vapor climatology over the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean.

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Anantha R. Aiyyer and John Molinari

Abstract

A linear shallow water model is used to simulate the evolution of mixed Rossby–gravity (MRG) waves in background states representative of the convective phase of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO). Initial MRG wave structures are obtained analytically. The MJO basic state is defined by the steady response of the tropical atmosphere to localized heating. Results from the simulations reveal that variations in the background flow play a significant role in the evolution of the MRG waves. When the basic state is symmetric about the equator, the MRG wave amplifies within the convergent region of the background flow and the ensuing development remains symmetric. When the heating is asymmetric, both the basic state and the MRG wave evolution exhibit significant asymmetries. Prominent features of this simulation are the development and growth of a series of small-scale, off-equatorial eddies that resemble tropical-depression-type disturbances.

The results suggest that a persistent large-scale heating that is asymmetric with respect to the equator may lead to the growth of off-equatorial disturbances from an equatorial mode. These disturbances, approximately 1000–2000 km in scale, are considerably smaller than the initial wavelength of the MRG wave. It is suggested that the cyclonic elements among them could serve as seedlings for tropical cyclones. This process may be particularly relevant to cyclogenesis in the tropical western Pacific, a region where the MJO and MRG waves are frequently observed.

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Anantha R. Aiyyer and Chris Thorncroft

Abstract

The spatiotemporal variability of the 200–850-hPa vertical wind shear over the tropical Atlantic is examined for a period of 46 yr. This work extends and updates past studies by considering a longer data record as well as a tropospheric-deep measure of vertical wind shear. Composite fields are constructed to illustrate the spatial pattern of the large-scale circulation associated with the mean and extreme cases of vertical shear within the tropical Atlantic. The contemporaneous relationship of vertical shear with El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Sahel precipitation are also examined. While the ENSO–shear correlation appears to have slightly strengthened during the past decade, the Sahel–shear correlation has become significantly degraded.

A combined empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis of the zonal and meridional components of the vertical shear reveals interannual and multidecadal modes. The leading EOF exhibits mainly interannual variability and is highly correlated with ENSO. The second EOF is associated with a multidecadal temporal evolution and is correlated with Sahel precipitation. Both EOFs correlate at the same level with tropical cyclones in the main development region of the tropical Atlantic.

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David R. Novak, Brian A. Colle, and Anantha R. Aiyyer

Abstract

This paper explores the mesoscale forcing and stability evolution of intense precipitation bands in the comma head sector of extratropical cyclones using the 32-km North American Regional Reanalysis, hourly 20-km Rapid Update Cycle analyses, and 2-km composite radar reflectivity data. A statistical and composite analysis of 36 banded events occurring during the 2002–08 cool seasons reveals a common cyclone evolution and associated band life cycle. A majority (61%) of banded events develop along the northern portion of a hook-shaped upper-level potential vorticity (PV) anomaly. During the 6 h leading up to band formation, lower-tropospheric frontogenesis nearly doubles and the conditional stability above the frontal zone is reduced. The frontogenesis increase is primarily due to changes in the kinematic flow associated with the development of a mesoscale geopotential height trough. This trough extends poleward of the 700-hPa low, and is the vertical extension of the surface warm front (and surface warm occlusion when present). The conditional stability near 500 hPa is reduced by differential horizontal potential temperature advection. During band formation, layers of conditional instability above the frontal zone are present nearly 3 times as often as layers of conditional symmetric instability. The frontogenetical forcing peaks during band maturity and is offset by an increase in conditional stability. Band dissipation occurs as the conditional stability continues to increase, and the frontogenesis weakens in response to changes in the kinematic flow.

A set of 22 null events, in which band formation was absent in the comma head, were also examined. Although exhibiting similar synoptic patterns as the banded events, the null events were characterized by weaker frontogenesis. However, statistically significant differences between the midlevel frontogenesis maximum of the banded and null events only appear ~2 h prior to band formation, illustrating the challenge of predicting band formation.

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Ademe Mekonnen, Chris D. Thorncroft, and Anantha R. Aiyyer

Abstract

The association between convection and African easterly wave (AEW) activity over tropical Africa and the tropical Atlantic during the boreal summer is examined using satellite brightness temperature (TB) and ECMWF reanalysis datasets. Spectral analysis using 18 yr of TB data shows significant variance in the 2–6-day range across most of the region. Within the regions of deep convection, this time scale accounts for about 25%–35% of the total variance.

The 2–6-day convective variance has similar amplitudes over western and eastern Africa, while dynamic measures of AEW activity show stronger amplitudes in the west. This study suggests that weak AEW activity in the east is consistent with initial wave development there and indicates that convection triggered on the western side of the mountains over central and eastern Africa, near Darfur (western Sudan) and Ethiopia, has a role in initiating AEWs westward. The subsequent development and growth of AEWs in West Africa is associated with stronger coherence with convection there.

Results show large year-to-year variability in convection at the 2–6-day time scale, which tends to vary consistently with the mean convection and dynamical measures of AEW activity over West Africa and the Atlantic, but not over central and eastern Africa. The Darfur region is particularly important for providing convective precursors that propagate westward and trigger AEWs downstream. During wet years, convection over eastern Africa (western Ethiopian highlands) can be a significant source of AEW initiation. In addition to being important for precursors of AEWs, the Darfur region is also a source of convection that propagates eastward toward Ethiopia.

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Eyad Atallah, Lance F. Bosart, and Anantha R. Aiyyer

Abstract

Tropical cyclones (TCs) making landfall over the United States are examined by separating those associated with precipitation predominantly left of their tracks from those with the same to the right of their tracks. Composites of atmospheric variables for these two TC categories are performed and analyzed using potential vorticity (PV) and quasigeostrophic (QG) frameworks. Dynamical signatures are retrieved from these composites to help understand the evolution of precipitation in these storms. Results indicate that a left of track precipitation distribution (e.g., Floyd 1999) is characteristic of TCs undergoing extratropical transition (ET). In these cases, a positively tilted midlatitude trough approaches the TC from the northwest, shifting precipitation to the north-northwest of the TC. Potential vorticity redistribution through diabatic heating leads to enhanced ridging over and downstream of the TC, resulting in an increase in the cyclonic advection of vorticity by the thermal wind over the transitioning TC. A right of track precipitation distribution is characteristic of TCs interacting with a downstream ridge (e.g., David 1979). When the downstream ridge amplifies in response to TC-induced diabatic heating ahead of a weak midlatitude trough, the PV gradient between the TC and the downstream ridge is accentuated, producing a region of enhanced positive PV advection (and cyclonic vorticity advection by the thermal wind) over the TC. The diabatic enhancement of the downstream ridge is instrumental in the redistribution of precipitation about the transitioning TCs in both cases and poses a significant forecast challenge.

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Kristen L. Corbosiero, John Molinari, Anantha R. Aiyyer, and Michael L. Black

Abstract

A portable data recorder attached to the Weather Surveillance Radar-1957 (WSR-57) in Apalachicola, Florida, collected 313 radar scans of the reflectivity structure within 150 km of the center of Hurricane Elena (in 1985) between 1310 and 2130 UTC 1 September. This high temporal and spatial (750 m) resolution dataset was used to examine the evolution of the symmetric and asymmetric precipitation structure in Elena as the storm rapidly strengthened and attained maximum intensity. Fourier decomposition of the reflectivity data into azimuthal wavenumbers revealed that the power in the symmetric (wavenumber 0) component dominated the reflectivity pattern at all times and all radii by at least a factor of 2. The wavenumber 1 asymmetry accounted for less than 20% of the power in the reflectivity field on average and was found to be forced by the environmental vertical wind shear.

The small-amplitude wavenumber 2 asymmetry in the core was associated with the appearance and rotation of an elliptical eyewall. This structure was visible for nearly 2 h and was noted to rotate cyclonically at a speed equal to half of the local tangential wind. Outside of the eyewall, individual peaks in the power in wavenumber 2 were associated with repeated instances of cyclonically rotating, outward-propagating inner spiral rainbands. Four separate convective bands were identified with an average azimuthal velocity of 25 m s−1, or ∼68% of the local tangential wind speed, and an outward radial velocity of 5.2 m s−1. The azimuthal propagation speeds of the elliptical eyewall and inner spiral rainbands were consistent with vortex Rossby wave theory.

The elliptical eyewall and inner spiral rainbands were seen only in the 6-h period prior to peak intensity, when rapid spinup of the vortex had produced an annular vorticity profile, similar to those that have been shown to support barotropic instability. The appearance of an elliptical eyewall was consistent with the breakdown of eyewall vorticity into mesovortices, asymmetric mixing between the eye and eyewall, and a slowing of the intensification rate. The inner spiral rainbands might have arisen from high eyewall vorticity ejected from the core during the mixing process. Alternatively, because the bands were noted to emanate from the vertical shear-forced deep convection in the northern eyewall, they could have formed through the axisymmetrization of the asymmetric diabatically generated eyewall vorticity.

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Christopher T. Holder, Sandra E. Yuter, Adam H. Sobel, and Anantha R. Aiyyer

Abstract

Precipitation structures within Kelvin and mixed Rossby–gravity (MRG) wave troughs near Kwajalein Atoll during the 1999–2003 rainy seasons are analyzed using three-dimensional ground-based radar data and upper-air sounding data. Consistent with previous work, wave troughs are preferred locations for precipitation and typically yield 1.3 times more rain area compared to the overall rainy season climatology.

Although the contiguous areas of cold cloudiness associated with tropical wave troughs are large and long lived, the underlying precipitation structure is most frequently small, isolated convection from mixed-phase clouds. This mismatch in instantaneous cold cloudiness area versus radar-observed precipitation area indicates differences in the rate and nature of evolution between the mesoscale anvil cloud and the underlying precipitating portion of the cloud.

Mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) were identified during portions of 32 of the 39 wave trough events examined. Convective cells are frequently embedded within stratiform regions. Reflectivity holes or pores in contiguous radar echo have been frequently observed in other regions but are quantified for the first time in this study. Based on characteristics such as total size of precipitating area and occurrence of convective lines, MCSs within Kelvin troughs are slightly more organized than those occurring within MRG troughs.

Similar to the west Pacific warm pool region, there is a well-defined separation between observed and unobserved stratiform area fraction and convective precipitation area, each as a function of total precipitation area. At precipitation area sizes near 40% of the radar domain, the maximum observed convective area changes from increasing to decreasing with increasing precipitation area. The maximum observed convective precipitation area occupied ∼20% of the radar domain. These characteristics suggest that the atmosphere in the west Pacific can sustain a limited area of updrafts capable of supporting precipitation growth by collision/coalescence and riming.

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Thomas J. Galarneau Jr.,, Lance F. Bosart, and, and Anantha R. Aiyyer

Abstract

The pioneering large-scale studies of cyclone frequency, location, and intensity conducted by Fred Sanders prompt similar questions about lesser-studied anticyclone development. The results of a climatology of closed anticyclones (CAs) at 200, 500, and 850 hPa, with an emphasis on the subtropics and midlatitudes, is presented to assess the seasonally varying distribution and hemispheric differences of these features. To construct the CA climatology, a counting program was applied to twice-daily 2.5° NCEP–NCAR reanalysis 200-, 500-, and 850-hPa geopotential height fields for the period 1950–2003. Stationary CAs, defined as those CAs that were located at a particular location for consecutive time periods, were counted only once.

The climatology results show that 200-hPa CAs occur preferentially during summer over subtropical continental regions, while 500-hPa CAs occur preferentially over subtropical oceans in all seasons and over subtropical continents in summer. Conversely, 850-hPa CAs occur preferentially over oceanic regions beneath upper-level midocean troughs, and are most prominent in the Northern Hemisphere, and over midlatitude continents in winter.

Three case studies of objectively identified CAs that produced heal waves over the United States, Europe, and Australia in 1995, 2003, and 2004, respectively, are presented to supplement the climatological results. The case studies, examining the subset of CAs than can produce heat waves, illustrate how climatologically hot continental tropical air masses produced over arid and semiarid regions of the subtropics and lower midlatitudes can become abnormally hot in conjunction with dynamically driven upper-level ridge amplification. Subsequently, these abnormally hot air masses are advected downstream away from their source regions in conjunction with transient disturbances embedded in anomalously strong westerly jets.

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Ademe Mekonnen, Chris D. Thorncroft, Anantha R. Aiyyer, and George N. Kiladis

Abstract

The structure and variability of convectively coupled Kelvin waves during the boreal summer are explored using satellite-observed brightness temperature data and ECMWF reanalyses. Kelvin wave activity is most prominent between the central and eastern Pacific, across Africa, and the Indian Ocean. Composite analysis shows that over sub-Saharan Africa Kelvin wave convection is peaked north of the equator, while the dynamical fields tend to be symmetric with respect to the equator. Convectively coupled Kelvin waves propagate faster over the Pacific and western Atlantic (∼24 m s−1), and slow down over tropical Africa (∼14 m s−1), consistent with stronger coupling between the dynamics and convection over tropical Africa. The Kelvin waves observed over Africa generally propagate into the region from anywhere between the eastern Pacific and the Atlantic, and decay over the eastern Indian Ocean basin.

Results show marked interannual variability of Kelvin wave activity over Africa. Anomalously high Kelvin wave variance tends to occur during dry years, while low variance occurs during wet years. African Kelvin wave activity is positively correlated with SST anomalies in the equatorial east Pacific. The same warm SST anomalies that are favorable for enhanced Kelvin wave activity suppress the mean rainfall over tropical Africa via a more slowly varying teleconnection and associated subsidence.

A brief analysis of an intense Kelvin wave in August 1987 (a dry year) shows a clear impact of the wave on convective development and daily rainfall over tropical Africa. This Kelvin wave was also associated with a series of easterly wave initiations over tropical Africa.

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