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Christopher S. Velden

Abstract

Passive microwave observations from the current NOAA series of polar-orbiting satellites of a large sample of North Atlantic tropical cyclones are qualitatively and quantitatively analyzed. Microwave observations can penetrate the cloud cover associated with tropical cyclones and capture the upper-level warm temperature anomaly, which is characteristic of these storms. The data are used to develop a statistical algorithm for estimating surface intensity. Based upon hydrostatic assumptions, linear regression relationships are developed between the satellite-depicted horizontal temperature gradient of the upper-level warm core (ΔT 250), and the surface intensity (ΔP SFC) as measured by reconnaissance reports. A good correlation is found to exist. Results indicate that standard errors of estimate of 8 mb and 13 kts are found for surface pressure and maximum winds, respectively. These errors are reduced when the effects of storm latitude, eye size, and surface-pressure tendency on the relationship are included. Knowledge gained in examining the accuracies and limitations of the current microwave sounders in tropical cyclone applications will be helpful in setting quantitative observational guidelines for future instruments.

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Christopher S. Velden

Satellite imagery from the VISSR (Visible Infrared Spin Scan Radiometer) Atmospheric Sounder (VAS) 6.7-μm water-vapor absorption band is normally available to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in real time (half-hourly intervals, 16 hours a day) through a remote Man-computer Interactive Data Access System (McIDAS) workstation located in the forecast center. Synoptic features that are not readily apparent in “visible” imagery or “11-μm-infrared” imagery are often well defined in the VAS “water-vapor” imagery with the help of special enhancement software that exists on McIDAS. A good example is Hurricane Elena (1985). Its erratic path in the Gulf of Mexico was responsible for the evacuation of nearly a million people in low-lying coastal areas during a three-day period. Imagery from the VAS 6.7-μm water-vapor channel clearly shows the interaction of a midlatitude trough with the hurricane, and supports other evidence that suggests this was responsible for altering Elena's course.

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Christopher S. Velden

Abstract

The evolution of upper-tropospheric thermal patterns associated with extratropical cyclone events is often not well represented by the conventional observational network, especially in marine situations. In this paper, a potential tool for qualitatively analyzing tropopause-level thermal structure and variations based on remotely sensed passive microwave data from satellites is examined. Specifically, warm anomalies associated with tropopause undulations in upper-tropospheric waves are captured in imagery from the 54.96-GHz channel of the Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU) onboard the current series of NOAA polar-orbiting satellites. Examples of this imagery during selected western North Atlantic cyclone events are presented, and the potential usefulness of these observations in analysis and forecasting is discussed.

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Christopher S. Velden and John Sears

Abstract

Vertical wind shear is well known in the tropical cyclone (TC) forecasting community as an important environmental influence on storm structure and intensity change. The traditional way to define deep-tropospheric vertical wind shear in most prior research studies, and in operational forecast applications, is to simply use the vector difference of the 200- and 850-hPa wind fields based on global model analyses. However, is this rather basic approach to approximate vertical wind shear adequate for most TC applications? In this study, the traditional approach is compared to a different methodology for generating fields of vertical wind shear as produced by the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS). The CIMSS fields are derived with heavy analysis weight given to available high-density satellite-derived winds. The resultant isobaric analyses are then used to create two mass-weighted layer-mean wind fields, one upper and one lower tropospheric, which are then differenced to produce the deep-tropospheric vertical wind shear field. The principal novelty of this approach is that it does not rely simply on the analyzed winds at two discrete levels, but instead attempts to account for some of the variable vertical wind structure in the calculation. It will be shown how the resultant vertical wind shear fields derived by the two approaches can diverge significantly in certain situations; the results also suggest that in many cases it is superior in depicting the wind structure's impact on TCs than the simple two-level differential that serves as the common contemporary vertical wind shear approximation.

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Christopher S. Velden and Derrick Herndon

ABSTRACT

A consensus-based algorithm for estimating the current intensity of global tropical cyclones (TCs) from meteorological satellites is described. The method objectively combines intensity estimates from infrared and microwave-based techniques to produce a consensus TC intensity estimate, which is more skillful than the individual members. The method, called Satellite Consensus (SATCON), can be run in near–real time and employs information sharing between member algorithms and a weighting strategy that relies on the situational precision of each member. An evaluation of the consensus algorithm’s performance in comparison with its individual members and other available operational estimates of TC intensity is presented. It is shown that SATCON can provide valuable objective intensity estimates for poststorm assessments, especially in the absence of other data such as provided by reconnaissance aircraft. It can also serve as a near-real-time estimator of TC intensity for forecasters, with the ability to quickly reconcile differences in objective intensity methods and thus decrease the uncertainty and amount of time spent on the intensity analysis. Near-real-time SATCON estimates are being provided to global operational TC forecast centers.

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John Sears and Christopher S. Velden

Abstract

Fields of atmospheric motion vectors (AMVs) are routinely derived by tracking features in sequential geostationary satellite infrared, water vapor, and visible-channel imagery. While AMVs produced operationally by global data centers are routinely evaluated against rawinsondes, there is a relative dearth of validation opportunities over the tropical oceans—in particular, in the vicinity of tropical disturbances when anomalous flow fields and strongly sheared environments commonly exist. A field experiment in 2010 called Pre-Depression Investigation of Cloud-Systems in the Tropics (PREDICT) was conducted in the tropical west Atlantic Ocean and provides an opportunity to evaluate the quality of tropical AMVs and analyses derived from them. The importance of such a verification is threefold: 1) AMVs often provide the only input data for numerical weather prediction (NWP) over cloudy areas of the tropical oceans, 2) NWP data assimilation methods are increasingly reliant on accurate flow-dependent observation-error characteristics, and 3) global tropical analysis and forecast centers often rely on analyses and diagnostic products derived from the AMV fields. In this paper, the authors utilize dropsonde information from high-flying PREDICT aircraft to identify AMV characteristics and to better understand their errors in tropical-disturbance situations. It is found that, in general, the AMV observation errors are close to those identified in global validation studies. However, some distinct characteristics are uncovered in certain regimes associated with tropical disturbances. High-resolution analyses derived from the AMV fields are also examined and are found to be more reflective of anomalous flow fields than the respective Global Forecast System global model analyses.

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Christopher S. Velden and Kristopher M. Bedka

Abstract

This study investigates the assignment of pressure heights to satellite-derived atmospheric motion vectors (AMVs), commonly known as cloud-drift and water vapor–motion winds. Large volumes of multispectral AMV datasets are compared with collocated rawinsonde wind profiles collected by the U.S. Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program at three geographically disparate sites: the southern Great Plains, the North Slope of Alaska, and the tropical western Pacific Ocean. From a careful analysis of these comparisons, the authors estimate that mean AMV observation errors are ∼5–5.5 m s−1 and that vector height assignment is the dominant factor in AMV uncertainty, contributing up to 70% of the error. These comparisons also reveal that in most cases the RMS differences between matched AMVs and rawinsonde wind values are minimized if the rawinsonde values are averaged over specified layers. In other words, on average, the AMV values better correlate to a motion over a mean tropospheric layer rather than to a traditionally assigned discrete level. The height assignment behavioral characteristics are specifically identified according to AMV height (high cloud vs low cloud), type (spectral bands; clear vs cloudy), geolocation, height assignment method, and amount of environmental vertical wind shear present. The findings have potentially important implications for data assimilation of AMVs, and these are discussed.

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Jason P. Dunion and Christopher S. Velden

A deep well-mixed, dry adiabatic layer forms over the Sahara Desert and Shale regions of North Africa during the late spring, summer, and early fall. As this air mass advances westward and emerges from the northwest African coast, it is undercut by cool, moist low-level air and becomes the Saharan air layer (SAL). The SAL contains very dry air and substantial mineral dust lifted from the arid desert surface over North Africa, and is often associated with a midlevel easterly jet. A temperature inversion occurs at the base of the SAL where very warm Saharan air overlies relatively cooler air above the ocean surface. Recently developed multispectral Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) infrared imagery detects the SAL's entrained dust and dry air as it moves westward over the tropical Atlantic. This imagery reveals that when the SAL engulfs tropical waves, tropical disturbances, or preexisting tropical cyclones (TCs), its dry air, temperature inversion, and strong vertical wind shear (associated with the midlevel easterly jet) can inhibit their ability to strengthen. The SAL's influence on TCs may be a factor in the TC intensity forecast problem in the Atlantic and may also contribute to this ocean basin's relatively reduced level of TC activity.

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Jason P. Dunion and Christopher S. Velden

Abstract

Beginning with the 1997 hurricane season, the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies at the University of Wisconsin—Madison began demonstrating the derivation of real-time Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) low-level cloud-drift winds in the vicinity of Atlantic tropical cyclones. The winds are derived from tracking low-level clouds in sequential, high-resolution GOES visible channel imagery. Since then, these data have been provided to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hurricane Research Division (HRD) for evaluation in their real-time tropical cyclone surface wind objective analyses (H*Wind) that are disseminated to forecasters at the NOAA National Hurricane Center on an experimental basis. These wind analyses are proving useful as guidance to support forecasters's tropical cyclone advisories and warnings. The GOES satellite wind observations often provide essential near-surface coverage in the outer radii of the tropical cyclone circulation where conventional in situ observations (e.g., ships and buoys) are frequently widely spaced or nonexistent and reconnaissance aircraft do not normally fly. The GOES low-level cloud-tracked winds are extrapolated to the surface using a planetary boundary layer model developed at HRD for hurricane environments.

In this study, the unadjusted GOES winds are validated against wind profiles from the newly deployed global positioning system dropwindsondes, and the surface-adjusted winds are compared with collocated in situ surface measurements. The results show the ability of the GOES winds to provide valuable quantitative data in the periphery of tropical cyclones. It is also shown that the current scheme employed to extrapolate the winds to the surface results in small biases in both speed and direction. Nonlinear adjustments to account for these biases are presented.

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Anthony J. Wimmers and Christopher S. Velden

Abstract

An improved version of the Automated Rotational Center Hurricane Eye Retrieval (ARCHER) tropical cyclone (TC) center-fixing algorithm, introduced here as “ARCHER-2,” is presented with a characterization of its accuracy and precision and a comparison with alternative methods. The algorithm is calibrated for 37- and 85–92-GHz microwave imagers; geostationary imagery at visible, near-infrared, and longwave infrared window channels; and scatterometer ambiguities. In addition to a center fix, ARCHER-2 produces a quantitative estimate of expected error that can be used automatically or manually to evaluate the suitability of a result. The median center-fix error ranges from 24 (using scatterometer) to 49 (using infrared window) km relative to the National Hurricane Center best track. Multisatellite, multisensor results can also be used together to produce a TC-track estimate that selects from the best of all of the available imagery in the ancillary “ARCHER-Track” product. The median error of ARCHER-Track varies between 17 and 38 km, depending on TC intensity and data latency. The bias of the product’s expected error varies between 0% and 12%, which translates to an average of only 4 km. When compared with operational, subjective center-fix estimates, the ARCHER-Track approach improves on 29%–43% of these cases at the tropical-depression and tropical-storm stages, at which further assistance is typically sought. This result demonstrates that ARCHER-2 and ARCHER-Track can complement and accelerate operational forecasting where needed and can furnish other automated TC-analysis methods with well-characterized center-fix information.

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