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Jonathan Zawislak

Abstract

This study evaluates precipitation properties involved in tropical cyclogenesis by analyzing a multiyear, global database of passive microwave overpasses of the pregenesis stage of developing disturbances and nondeveloping disturbances. Precipitation statistics are quantified using brightness temperature proxies from the 85–91-GHz channels of multiple spaceborne sensors, as well as retrieved rain rates. Proxies focus on the overall raining area, areal coverage of deep convection, and the proximity of precipitation to the disturbance center. Of interest are the differences in those proxies for developing versus nondeveloping disturbances, how the properties evolve during the pregenesis stage, and how they differ globally. The results indicate that, of all of the proxies examined, the total raining area and rain volume near the circulation center are the most useful precipitation-related predictors for genesis. The areal coverage of deep convection also differentiates developing from nondeveloping disturbances and, similar to the total raining area, generally also increases during the pregenesis stage, particularly within a day of genesis. As the threshold convective intensity is increased, pregenesis cases are less distinguishable from nondeveloping disturbances. Relative to the western Pacific and Indian Oceans, the Atlantic and eastern North Pacific Oceans have less precipitation and deep convection observed during genesis and the smallest differences between developing and nondeveloping disturbances. This suggests that the total raining area and areal coverage of deep convection associated with tropical disturbances are better predictors of tropical cyclogenesis fate in the Pacific and Indian Oceans than in the Atlantic and eastern North Pacific.

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George S. Young and Jonathan Zawislak

Abstract

Vortex streets are a frequent occurrence in stratocumulus-topped flow downwind of mountainous islands. Theoretical studies dating back to von Kármán, supported by laboratory and numerical studies, have yielded similarity theories for the size and spacing of these vortices behind bluff bodies. Despite dynamical differences between such two-dimensional flows and the three-dimensional flow past isolated islands, satellite case studies suggest these geometric similarities may also hold for the atmospheric case. In this study, two of the resulting dimensionless ratios are measured using satellite imagery. One is the aspect ratio between cross-street and along-street spacing of the vortices. The second is the ratio of the cross-street spacing to the crosswind width of the island. A 30-image sample from the Aqua and Terra Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer satellites is analyzed to obtain these ratios. The resulting set of values for the two dimensionless ratios is tested against the values found in bluff body studies. The aspect ratio is tested against the value of 0.28 resulting from von Kármán’s inviscid theory, and the dimensionless width ratio is tested against the value of 1.2 from Tyler’s laboratory study of flow around a bluff body. It is found that atmospheric vortex streets do indeed follow the geometric similarity theories, but with different values for the two ratios than those predicted by von Kármán and Tyler. The aspect ratio is larger than predicted as is the dimensionless width ratio. Both differences are consistent with the turbulent diffusion of vorticity in the wake of the island. The vortex streets more closely follow inviscid theory close to the island, with vortex expansion taking place a few vortex diameters downwind of the island.

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Jonathan Zawislak and Edward J. Zipser

Abstract

A comprehensive passive microwave satellite dataset is analyzed to quantify and compare the time evolution of convective properties of the pregenesis stage of developing disturbances (12 cases) and nondeveloping disturbances (3 cases), to determine whether the properties within the day prior to formation are unique, and to determine whether there is a credible connection between convection and the organization of the incipient circulation. Cases examined were the focus of recent (since 2005) field programs, and include those investigated during the triagency field programs in the Atlantic during 2010 [NASA’s Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) project, the National Science Foundation (NSF)/NCAR Pre-Depression Investigation of Cloud-Systems in the Tropics (PREDICT) program, and NOAA’s Intensity Forecasting Experiment (IFEX)]. Among the properties examined (raining area, intensity, areal coverage of “strong” and “intense” convection, frequency, and proximity to the disturbance center), the results indicate that the area and frequency of rainfall within 3° are distinguishably greater in developing disturbances. Except for the fact it occurs in a more organized disturbance, there does not appear to be anything special about strong [polarization corrected temperature (PCT) ≤ 210 K] or intense (PCT ≤ 160 K) convection occurring in the day before genesis. Strong and intense convection events are observed throughout the pregenesis stage, do not necessarily increase (in intensity and area) as genesis nears, and are not necessarily very close (within 1°) to the center within a day of genesis. Likewise, while the areal coverage of strong and intense convection during the pregenesis stage is typically greater in developing disturbances, the overall intensity of convection in nondeveloping disturbances is comparable to the developing cases examined.

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Jonathan Zawislak and Edward J. Zipser

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The African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analyses (AMMA) experiment and its downstream NASA extension, NAMMA, provide an unprecedented detailed look at the vertical structure of consecutive African easterly waves. During August and September 2006, seven easterly waves passed through the NAMMA domain: two waves developed into Tropical Cyclones Debby and Helene, two waves did not develop, and three waves were questionable in their role in the development of Ernesto, Florence, and Gordon. NCEP Global Data Assimilation System (GDAS) analyses are used to describe the track of both the vorticity maxima and midlevel wave trough associated with each of the seven easterly waves. Dropsonde data from NAMMA research flights are used to describe the observed wind structure and as a tool to evaluate the accuracy of the GDAS to resolve the structure of the wave. Finally, satellite data are used to identify the relationship between convection and the organization of the wind structure. Results support a necessary distinction between the large-scale easterly wave trough and smaller-scale vorticity centers within the wave. An important wave-to-wave variability is observed: for NAMMA waves, those waves that have a characteristically high-amplitude wave trough and well-defined low-level circulations (well organized) may contain less rainfall, do not necessarily develop, and are well resolved in the analysis, whereas low-amplitude (weakly organized) NAMMA waves may have stronger vorticity centers and large persistent raining areas and may be more likely to develop, but are not well resolved in the analysis.

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Jonathan Zawislak and Edward J. Zipser

Abstract

A dropsonde dataset is analyzed to quantify the necessary thermodynamic conditions for tropical cyclogenesis by evaluating the properties that distinguish developing tropical disturbances from nondeveloping disturbances, and by describing the temporal evolution of the developing inner core. The dataset consists of 2204 dropsonde observations from 12 developing disturbances and 245 from four nondeveloping disturbances. These disturbances are the cases with the best pregenesis sampling from field programs between 2005 and 2010, and include those investigated by three coincident field programs during 2010: the NASA Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) and NCAR/NSF Pre-Depression Investigation of Cloud Systems in the Tropics (PREDICT) experiments, as well as NOAA’s Intensity Forecast Experiment (IFEX). Composite analyses indicate clear differences between developing and nondeveloping disturbances: developing disturbances exhibit greater moisture and a higher humidity at midlevels (above 800 hPa) than nondeveloping, and while the developing inner core experiences some midlevel moistening and stabilization as genesis nears, nondeveloping disturbances become progressively drier and more convectively unstable. Developing disturbances also exhibit some important characteristics in their inner core within 2 days of genesis: the low to midtroposphere (below 500 hPa) approaches near-saturation, a mid- to upper-level warm temperature anomaly develops and progressively deepens toward the low levels, and a low-level (below 900 hPa) cool, dry anomaly develops and is removed by the day of genesis. Overall the results support one proposed pathway to tropical cyclone formation in which an initially stronger midlevel vortex, in a moist, humid environment, precedes primarily low-level intensification within a day of genesis.

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Cheng Tao, Haiyan Jiang, and Jonathan Zawislak

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Using 16-yr Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Precipitation Radar (PR) observations, rainfall properties in the inner-core region of tropical cyclones (TCs) and the relative importance of stratiform and convective precipitation are examined with respect to the evolution of rapid intensification (RI) events. The onset of RI follows a significant increase in the occurrence and azimuthal coverage of stratiform rainfall in all shear-relative quadrants, especially upshear left. The importance of the increased stratiform occurrence in RI storms is further confirmed by the comparison of two groups of slowly intensifying (SI) storms with one group that underwent RI and the other that did not. Statistically, SI storms that do not undergo RI during their life cycle have a much lower percent occurrence of stratiform rain within the inner core. The relatively greater areal coverage of stratiform rain in RI cases appears to be related to the moistening/humidification of the inner core, particularly in the upshear quadrants. In contrast to rainfall frequency, rainfall intensity and total volumetric rain do not increase much until several hours after RI onset, which is more likely a response or positive feedback rather than the trigger of RI. Despite a low frequency of occurrence, the overall contribution to total volumetric rain by convective precipitation is comparable to that of stratiform rain, owing to its intense rain rate.

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George R. Alvey III, Jonathan Zawislak, and Edward Zipser

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Using a 15-yr (1998–2012) multiplatform dataset of passive microwave satellite data [tropical cyclone–passive microwave (TC-PMW)] for Atlantic and east Pacific storms, this study examines the relative importance of various precipitation properties, specifically convective intensity, symmetry, and area, to the spectrum of intensity changes observed in tropical cyclones. Analyses are presented not only spatially in shear-relative quadrants around the center, but also every 6 h during a 42-h period encompassing 18 h prior to onset of intensification to 24 h after. Compared to those with slower intensification rates, storms with higher intensification rates (including rapid intensification) have more symmetric distributions of precipitation prior to onset of intensification, as well as a greater overall areal coverage of precipitation. The rate of symmetrization prior to, and during, intensification increases with increasing intensity change as rapidly intensifying storms are more symmetric than slowly intensifying storms. While results also clearly show important contributions from strong convection, it is concluded that intensification is more closely related to the evolution of the areal, radial, and symmetric distribution of precipitation that is not necessarily intense.

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George R. Alvey III, Ed Zipser, and Jonathan Zawislak

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A 14-member high-resolution ensemble of Edouard (2014), a moderately sheared tropical storm that underwent rapid intensification (RI), is used to determine causes of vortex alignment and precipitation symmetry prior to RI. Half the members intensify similarly to the NHC’s best track, while the other seven ensemble members fail to reproduce intensification. Analyses of initial conditions (vertical wind shear, sea surface temperatures, relative humidity, vortex structure) reveal that lower humidity and weaker, more tilted vortices in nonintensifying members likely increase their susceptibility to boundary layer flushing episodes. As the simulations progress, vortex tilt, inner-core humidity, and azimuthal variations in the structure of precipitation best differentiate the two ensemble subsets. Although all members initially are slowly intensifying asymmetric storms, the RI members are unique in that they have more persistent deep convection downshear, which favors vortex alignment via the stretching term and/or precession. As deep convection transitions to stratiform precipitation and anvil clouds in the upshear quadrants, evaporation and sublimation of condensate advected from the downshear quadrants moisten the middle to upper troposphere. This is hypothesized to promote an increase in precipitation symmetrization, a necessary precursor for RI.

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Leon T. Nguyen, Robert Rogers, Jonathan Zawislak, and Jun A. Zhang

Abstract

The thermodynamic impacts of downdraft-induced cooling/drying and downstream recovery via surface enthalpy fluxes within tropical cyclones (TCs) were investigated using dropsonde observations collected from 1996 to 2017. This study focused on relatively weak TCs (tropical depression, tropical storm, category 1 hurricane) that were subjected to moderate (4.5–11.0 m s−1) levels of environmental vertical wind shear. The dropsonde data were analyzed in a shear-relative framework and binned according to TC intensity change in the 24 h following the dropsonde observation time, allowing for comparison between storms that underwent different intensity changes. Moisture and temperature asymmetries in the lower troposphere yielded a relative maximum in lower-tropospheric conditional instability in the downshear quadrants and a relative minimum in instability in the upshear quadrants, regardless of intensity change. However, the instability increased as the intensification rate increased, particularly in the downshear quadrants. This was due to increased boundary layer moist entropy relative to the temperature profile above the boundary layer. Additionally, significantly larger surface enthalpy fluxes were observed as the intensification rate increased, particularly in the upshear quadrants. These results suggest that in intensifying storms, enhanced surface enthalpy fluxes in the upshear quadrants allow downdraft-modified boundary layer air to recover moisture and heat more effectively as it is advected cyclonically around the storm. By the time the air reaches the downshear quadrants, the lower-tropospheric conditional instability is enhanced, which is speculated to be more favorable for updraft growth and deep convection.

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Gabriel Susca-Lopata, Jonathan Zawislak, Edward J. Zipser, and Robert F. Rogers

Abstract

An investigation into the possible causes of the rapid intensification (RI) of Hurricane Earl (2010) is carried out using a combination of global analyses, aircraft Doppler radar data, and observations from passive microwave satellites and a long-range lightning network. Results point to an important series of events leading to, and just after, the onset of RI, all of which occur despite moderate (7–12 m s−1) vertical wind shear present. Beginning with an initially vertically misaligned vortex, observations indicate that asymmetric deep convection, initially left of shear but not distinctly up- or downshear, rotates into more decisively upshear regions. Following this convective rotation, the vortex becomes aligned and precipitation symmetry increases. The potential contributions to intensification from each of these structural changes are discussed.

The radial distribution of intense convection relative to the radius of maximum wind (RMW; determined from Doppler wind retrievals) is estimated from microwave and lightning data. Results indicate that intense convection is preferentially located within the upper-level (8 km) RMW during RI, lending further support to the notion that intense convection within the RMW promotes tropical cyclone intensification. The distribution relative to the low-level RMW is more ambiguous, with intense convection preferentially located just outside of the low-level RMW at times when the upper-level RMW is much greater than the low-level RMW.

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