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Michael M. Bell and Michael T. Montgomery

Abstract

Observations from the Pre-Depression Investigation of Cloud Systems in the Tropics (PREDICT), Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP), and Intensity Forecast Experiment (IFEX) field campaigns are analyzed to investigate the mesoscale processes leading to the tropical cyclogenesis of Hurricane Karl (2010). Research aircraft missions provided Doppler radar, in situ flight level, and dropsonde data documenting the structural changes of the predepression disturbance. Following the pre-Karl wave pouch, variational analyses at the meso-β and meso-α scales suggest that the convective cycle in Karl alternately built the low- and midlevel circulations leading to genesis episodically rather than through a sustained lowering of the convective mass flux from increased stabilization. Convective bursts that erupt in the vorticity-rich environment of the recirculating pouch region enhance the low-level meso-β- and meso-α-scale circulation through vortex stretching. As the convection wanes, the resulting stratiform precipitation strengthens the midlevel circulation through convergence associated with ice microphysical processes, protecting the disturbance from the intrusion of dry environmental air. Once the column saturation fraction returns to a critical value, a subsequent convective burst below the midlevel circulation further enhances the low-level circulation, and the convective cycle repeats. The analyses suggest that the onset of deep convection and associated low-level spinup were closely related to the coupling of the vorticity and moisture fields at low and midlevels. Our interpretation of the observational analysis presented in this study reaffirms a primary role of deep convection in the genesis process and provides a hypothesis for the supporting role of stratiform precipitation and the midlevel vortex.

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Michael M. Bell and Michael T. Montgomery

Abstract

Unprecedented observations of Hurricane Isabel (2003) at category 5 intensity were collected from 12 to 14 September. This study presents a detailed analysis of the inner-core structure, atmospheric boundary layer, sea surface temperature, and outflow layer of a superintense tropical cyclone using high-resolution in situ flight-level, NCAR GPS dropwindsonde, Doppler radar, and satellite measurements. The analysis of the dropwindsonde and in situ data includes a comprehensive discussion of the uncertainties associated with this observational dataset and provides an estimate of the storm-relative axisymmetric inner-core structure using Barnes objective analysis. An assessment of gradient and thermal wind balance in the inner core is also presented. The axisymmetric data composites presented in this study suggest that Isabel built a reservoir of high moist entropy air by sea-to-air latent heat flux inside the low-level eye that was utilized as an additional energy source to nearly maintain its extreme intensity even after crossing the cool wake of Hurricane Fabian. It is argued here that the combined mean and asymmetric eddy flux of high moist entropy air from the low-level eye into the eyewall represents an additional power source or “turbo boost” to the hurricane heat engine. Recent estimates of the ratio of sea-to-air enthalpy and momentum exchange at high wind speeds are used to suggest that Isabel utilized this extra power to exceed the previously assumed intensity upper bound for the given environmental conditions on all three days. This discrepancy between a priori potential intensity theory and observations may be as high as 35 m s−1 on 13 September.

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Zhuo Wang, M. T. Montgomery, and T. J. Dunkerton

Abstract

This is the second of a two-part study examining the simulated formation of Atlantic Hurricane Felix (2007) in a cloud-representing framework. Here several open issues are addressed concerning the formation of the storm’s warm core, the evolution and respective contribution of stratiform versus convective precipitation within the parent wave’s pouch, and the sensitivity of the development pathway reported in to different model physics options and initial conditions. All but one of the experiments include ice microphysics as represented by one of several parameterizations, and the partition of convective versus stratiform precipitation is accomplished using a standard numerical technique based on the high-resolution control experiment.

The transition to a warm-core tropical cyclone from an initially cold-core, lower tropospheric wave disturbance is analyzed first. As part of this transformation process, it is shown that deep moist convection is sustained near the pouch center. Both convective and stratiform precipitation rates increase with time. While stratiform precipitation occupies a larger area even at the tropical storm stage, deep moist convection makes a comparable contribution to the total rain rate at the pregenesis stage, and a larger contribution than stratiform processes at the storm stage. The convergence profile averaged near the pouch center is found to become dominantly convective with increasing deep moist convective activity there. Low-level convergence forced by interior diabatic heating plays a key role in forming and intensifying the near-surface closed circulation, while the midlevel convergence associated with stratiform precipitation helps to increase the midlevel circulation and thereby contributes to the formation and upward extension of a tropospheric-deep cyclonic vortex.

Sensitivity tests with different model physics options and initial conditions demonstrate a similar pregenesis evolution. These tests suggest that the genesis location of a tropical storm is largely controlled by the parent wave’s critical layer, whereas the genesis time and intensity of the protovortex depend on the details of the mesoscale organization, which is less predictable. Some implications of the findings are discussed.

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Zhuo Wang, M. T. Montgomery, and T. J. Dunkerton

Abstract

The formation of pre–Hurricane Felix (2007) in a tropical easterly wave is examined in a two-part study using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model with a high-resolution nested grid configuration that permits the representation of cloud system processes. The simulation commences during the wave stage of the precursor African easterly-wave disturbance. Here the simulated and observed developments are compared, while in of the study various large-scale analyses, physical parameterizations, and initialization times are explored to document model sensitivities.

In this first part the authors focus on the wave/vortex morphology, its interaction with the adjacent intertropical convergence zone complex, and the vorticity balance in the neighborhood of the developing storm. Analysis of the model simulation points to a bottom-up development process within the wave critical layer and supports the three new hypotheses of tropical cyclone formation proposed recently by Dunkerton, Montgomery, and Wang. It is shown also that low-level convergence associated with the ITCZ helps to enhance the wave signal and extend the “wave pouch” from the jet level to the top of the atmospheric boundary layer. The region of a quasi-closed Lagrangian circulation within the wave pouch provides a focal point for diabatic merger of convective vortices and their vortical remnants. The wave pouch serves also to protect the moist air inside from dry air intrusion, providing a favorable environment for sustained deep convection. Consistent with the authors’ earlier findings, the tropical storm forms near the center of the wave pouch via system-scale convergence in the lower troposphere and vorticity aggregation. Components of the vorticity balance are shown to be scale dependent, with the immediate effects of cloud processes confined more closely to the storm center than the overturning Eliassen circulation induced by diabatic heating, the influence of which extends to larger radii.

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K. J. Tory, N. E. Davidson, and M. T. Montgomery

Abstract

This is the third of a three-part investigation into tropical cyclone (TC) genesis in the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s Tropical Cyclone Limited Area Prediction System (TC-LAPS), an operational numerical weather prediction (NWP) forecast model. In Parts I and II, a primary and two secondary vortex enhancement mechanisms were illustrated, and shown to be responsible for TC genesis in a simulation of TC Chris. In this paper, five more TC-LAPS simulations are investigated: three developing and two nondeveloping. In each developing simulation the pathway to genesis was essentially the same as that reported in Part II. Potential vorticity (PV) cores developed through low- to middle-tropospheric vortex enhancement in model-resolved updraft cores (primary mechanism) and interacted to form larger cores through diabatic upscale vortex cascade (secondary mechanism). On the system scale, vortex intensification resulted from the large-scale mass redistribution forced by the upward mass flux, driven by diabatic heating, in the updraft cores (secondary mechanism). The nondeveloping cases illustrated that genesis can be hampered by (i) vertical wind shear, which may tilt and tear apart the PV cores as they develop, and (ii) an insufficient large-scale cyclonic environment, which may fail to sufficiently confine the warming and enhanced cyclonic winds, associated with the atmospheric adjustment to the convective updrafts.

The exact detail of the vortex interactions was found to be unimportant for qualitative genesis forecast success. Instead the critical ingredients were found to be sufficient net deep convection in a sufficiently cyclonic environment in which vertical shear was less than some destructive limit. The often-observed TC genesis pattern of convection convergence, where the active convective regions converge into a 100-km-diameter center, prior to an intense convective burst and development to tropical storm intensity is evident in the developing TC-LAPS simulations. The simulations presented in this study and numerous other simulations not yet reported on have shown good qualitative forecast success. Assuming such success continues in a more rigorous study (currently under way) it could be argued that TC genesis is largely predictable provided the large-scale environment (vorticity, vertical shear, and convective forcing) is sufficiently resolved and initialized.

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K. J. Tory, M. T. Montgomery, and N. E. Davidson

Abstract

This is the first of a three-part investigation into tropical cyclone (TC) genesis in the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s Tropical Cyclone Limited Area Prediction System (TC-LAPS), an operational numerical weather prediction (NWP) forecast model. The primary TC-LAPS vortex enhancement mechanism is presented in Part I, the entire genesis process is illustrated in Part II using a single TC-LAPS simulation, and in Part III a number of simulations are presented exploring the sensitivity and variability of genesis forecasts in TC-LAPS.

The primary vortex enhancement mechanism in TC-LAPS is found to be convergence/stretching and vertical advection of absolute vorticity in deep intense updrafts, which result in deep vortex cores of 60–100 km in diameter (the minimum resolvable scale is limited by the 0.15° horizontal grid spacing). On the basis of the results presented, it is hypothesized that updrafts of this scale adequately represent mean vertical motions in real TC genesis convective regions, and perhaps that explicitly resolving the individual convective processes may not be necessary for qualitative TC genesis forecasts. Although observations of sufficient spatial and temporal resolution do not currently exist to support or refute this proposition, relatively large-scale (30 km and greater), lower- to midlevel tropospheric convergent regions have been observed in tropical oceanic environments during the Global Atmospheric Research Programme (GARP) Atlantic Tropical Experiment (GATE), the Equatorial Mesoscale Experiment (EMEX), and the Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Response Experiment (TOGA COARE), and regions of extreme convection of the order of 50 km are often (remotely) observed in TC genesis environments. These vortex cores are fundamental for genesis in TC-LAPS. They interact to form larger cores, and provide net heating that drives the system-scale secondary circulation, which enhances vorticity on the system scale akin to the classical Eliassen problem of a balanced vortex driven by heat sources. These secondary vortex enhancement mechanisms are documented in Part II.

In some recent TC genesis theories featured in the literature, vortex enhancement in deep convective regions of mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) has largely been ignored. Instead, they focus on the stratiform regions. While it is recognized that vortex enhancement through midlevel convergence into the stratiform precipitation deck can greatly enhance midtropospheric cyclonic vorticity, it is suggested here that this mechanism only increases the potential for genesis, whereas vortex enhancement through low- to midlevel convergence into deep convective regions is necessary for genesis.

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K. D. Musgrave, C. A. Davis, and M. T. Montgomery

Abstract

This study examines the formation of Hurricane Gabrielle (2001), focusing on whether an initial disturbance and vertical wind shear were favorable for development. This examination is performed by running numerical experiments using the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesoscale Model (MM5). Gabrielle is chosen as an interesting case to study since it formed in the subtropics only a few days before making landfall in Florida. Three simulations are run: a control run and two sensitivity experiments. The control run is compared with observations to establish the closeness of the model output to Gabrielle’s observed formation. The two sensitivity experiments are designed to test the response of the developing tropical cyclone to alterations in the initial conditions. The first sensitivity experiment removes the initial (or precursor) disturbance, a midtropospheric vortex located over Florida. The second sensitivity experiment reduces the vertical wind shear over the area of formation. The control run produces a system comparable to Gabrielle. The convection in the control run is consistently located downshear of the center of circulation. In the first sensitivity experiment, with the removal of the initial disturbance, no organized system develops. This indicates the importance of the midtropospheric vortex in Gabrielle’s formation. The second sensitivity experiment, which reduces the vertical wind shear over the area of Gabrielle’s formation, produces a system that can be identified as Gabrielle. This system, however, is weaker than both the control run and the observations of Gabrielle. This study provides direct evidence of a favorable influence of modest vertical wind shear on the formation of a tropical cyclone in this case.

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Michael M. Bell, Michael T. Montgomery, and Kerry A. Emanuel

Abstract

Quantifying air–sea exchanges of enthalpy and momentum is important for understanding and skillfully predicting tropical cyclone intensity, but the magnitude of the corresponding wind speed–dependent bulk exchange coefficients is largely unknown at major hurricane wind speeds greater than 50 m s−1. Since direct turbulent flux measurements in these conditions are extremely difficult, the momentum and enthalpy fluxes were deduced via absolute angular momentum and total energy budgets. An error analysis of the methodology was performed to quantify and mitigate potentially significant uncertainties resulting from unresolved budget terms and observational errors. An analysis of six missions from the 2003 Coupled Boundary Layers Air–Sea Transfer (CBLAST) field program in major hurricanes Fabian and Isabel was conducted using a new variational technique. The analysis indicates a near-surface mean drag coefficient CD of 2.4 × 10−3 with a 46% standard deviation and a mean enthalpy coefficient CK of 1.0 × 10−3 with a 40% standard deviation for wind speeds between 52 and 72 m s−1. These are the first known estimates of CK and the ratio of enthalpy to drag coefficient CK/CD in major hurricanes. The results suggest that there is no significant change in the magnitude of the bulk exchange coefficients estimated at minimal hurricane wind speeds, and that the ratio CK/CD does not significantly increase for wind speeds greater than 50 m s−1.

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Michael M. Bell, Michael T. Montgomery, and Wen-Chau Lee

Abstract

Multiplatform observations of Hurricane Rita (2005) were collected as part of the Hurricane Rainband and Intensity Change Experiment (RAINEX) field campaign during a concentric eyewall stage of the storm’s life cycle that occurred during 21–22 September. Satellite, aircraft, dropwindsonde, and Doppler radar data are used here to examine the symmetric evolution of the hurricane as it underwent eyewall replacement.

During the approximately 1-day observation period, developing convection associated with the secondary eyewall became more symmetric and contracted inward. Latent heating in the emergent secondary eyewall led to the development of a distinct toroidal (overturning) circulation with inertially constrained radial inflow above the boundary layer and compensating subsidence in the moat region, properties that are consistent broadly with the balanced vortex response to an imposed ring of diabatic heating outside the primary eyewall. The primary eyewall’s convection became more asymmetric during the observation period, but the primary eyewall was still the dominant swirling wind and vorticity structure throughout the period.

The observed structure and evolution of Rita’s secondary eyewall suggest that spinup of the tangential winds occurred both within and above the boundary layer, and that both balanced and unbalanced dynamical processes played an important role. Although Rita’s core intensity decreased during the observation period, the observations indicate a 125% increase in areal extent of hurricane-force winds and a 19% increase in integrated kinetic energy resulting from the eyewall replacement.

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M. T. Montgomery, M. E. Nicholls, T. A. Cram, and A. B. Saunders

Abstract

A nonhydrostatic cloud model is used to examine the thermomechanics of tropical cyclogenesis under realistic meteorological conditions. Observations motivate the focus on the problem of how a midtropospheric cyclonic vortex, a frequent by-product of mesoscale convective systems during summertime conditions over tropical oceans, may be transformed into a surface-concentrated (warm core) tropical depression. As a first step, the vortex transformation is studied in the absence of vertical wind shear or zonal flow.

Within the cyclonic vorticity-rich environment of the mesoscale convective vortex (MCV) embryo, the simulations demonstrate that small-scale cumulonimbus towers possessing intense cyclonic vorticity in their cores [vortical hot towers (VHTs)] emerge as the preferred coherent structures. The VHTs acquire their vertical vorticity through a combination of tilting of MCV horizontal vorticity and stretching of MCV and VHT-generated vertical vorticity. Horizontally localized and exhibiting convective lifetimes on the order of 1 h, VHTs overcome the generally adverse effects of downdrafts by consuming convective available potential energy in their local environment, humidifying the middle and upper troposphere, and undergoing diabatic vortex merger with neighboring towers.

During metamorphosis, the VHTs vortically prime the mesoscale environment and collectively mimic a quasi-steady diabatic heating rate within the MCV embryo. A quasi-balanced toroidal (transverse) circulation develops on the system scale that converges cyclonic vorticity of the initial MCV and small-scale vorticity anomalies generated by subsequent tower activity. The VHTs are found to accelerate the spinup of near-surface mean tangential winds relative to an approximate axisymmetric model that excises the VHTs. This upscale growth mechanism appears capable of generating a tropical depression vortex on time scales on the order of 1–2 days, for reasonable parameter choices.

Further tests of the VHT paradigm are advocated through diagnoses of operational weather prediction models, higher resolution simulations of the current configuration, examination of disruption scenarios for incipient vortices, and a meteorological field experiment.

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