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Jun A. Zhang and Robert F. Rogers

Abstract

This study investigates the role of the parameterized boundary layer structure in hurricane intensity change using two retrospective HWRF forecasts of Hurricane Earl (2010) in which the vertical eddy diffusivity K m was modified during physics upgrades. Earl undergoes rapid intensification (RI) in the low-Km forecast as observed in nature, while it weakens briefly before resuming a slow intensification at the RI onset in the high-Km forecast. Angular momentum budget analysis suggests that K m modulates the convergence of angular momentum in the boundary layer, which is a key component of the hurricane spinup dynamics. Reducing K m in the boundary layer causes enhancement of both the inflow and convergence, which in turn leads to stronger and more symmetric deep convection in the low-Km forecast than in the high-Km forecast. The deeper and stronger hurricane vortex with lower static stability in the low-Km forecast is more resilient to shear than that in the high-Km forecast. With a smaller vortex tilt in the low-Km forecast, downdrafts associated with the vortex tilt are reduced, bringing less low-entropy air from the midlevels to the boundary layer, resulting in a less stable boundary layer. Future physics upgrades in operational hurricane models should consider this chain of multiscale interactions to assess their impact on model RI forecasts.

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Robert F. Rogers and J. M. Fritsch

Abstract

A general framework for the trigger function used in convective parameterization routines in mesoscale models is proposed. The framework is based on the diagnosis of the accessibility of potential buoyant energy. Specifically, the trigger function 1) estimates the magnitude of the largest vertical velocity perturbation from a source layer and 2) calculates the total amount of inhibition between the source layer and the level of free convection. The calculation of perturbation magnitude accounts for such factors as subgrid-scale inhomogeneities, a convective boundary layer, and convergence within the source layer. Specific formulations to quantify these factors are proposed.

The trigger is tested in a simulation using the PSU–NCAR mesoscale model MM5. The event chosen for simulation is a summertime case exhibiting a variety of environments. The results of this simulation are compared with a simulation using the Fritsch–Chappell (FC) trigger function. It is found that decisions made by the new trigger function are more physically consistent with the local environment than decisions made by the FC trigger.

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Robert F. Rogers and J. Michael Fritsch

Abstract

Mesoscale convective vortices (MCVs) are midtropospheric warm-core cyclonic circulations that often develop in the stratiform region of mesoscale convective systems. Typically, divergent, anticyclonically circulating, mesoscale cold anomalies appear both above and below the MCV. The upper-level cold anomaly is usually found near the tropopause while the low-level anomaly is surface based and exhibits locally higher pressure. One aspect of MCVs that has received much attention recently is the role that they may play in tropical cyclogenesis. Of special interest is how an MCV amplifies when deep convection redevelops within the borders of its midlevel cyclonic circulation and how the amplified MCV transforms the divergent surface-based cold pool with anomalously high surface pressure into a convergent cyclonic circulation with anomalously low pressure.

The Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research fifth-generation Mesoscale Model is used to simulate an MCV that was instrumental in initiating, within the borders of the midlevel vortex’s circulation, several successive cycles of convective development and decay over a 2-day period. After each cycle of convection, both the horizontal size of the cyclonic circulation and the magnitude of the potential vorticity associated with the vortex were observed to increase. The simulation reproduces the development and evolution of the MCV and associated convective cycles. Mesoscale features responsible for the initiation of convection within the circulation of the vortex and the impact of this convection on the structure and evolution of the vortex are investigated. A conceptual model is presented to explain how convective redevelopment within the MCV causes low-level heights to fall and cyclonic vorticity to grow downward to the surface. Applying this conceptual model to a tropical marine environment is also considered.

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Jennifer C. DeHart, Robert A. Houze Jr., and Robert F. Rogers

Abstract

Airborne Doppler radar data collected in tropical cyclones by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration WP-3D aircraft over an 8-yr period (2003–10) are used to statistically analyze the vertical structure of tropical cyclone eyewalls with reference to the deep-layer shear. Convective evolution within the inner core conforms to patterns shown by previous studies: convection initiates downshear right, intensifies downshear left, and weakens upshear. Analysis of the vertical distribution of radar reflectivity and vertical air motion indicates the development of upper-level downdrafts in conjunction with strong convection downshear left and a maximum in frequency upshear left. Intense updrafts and downdrafts both conform to the shear asymmetry pattern. While strong updrafts occur in the eyewall, intense downdrafts show far more radial variability, particularly in the upshear-left quadrant, though they concentrate along the eyewall edges. Strong updrafts are collocated with low-level inflow and upper-level outflow superimposed on the background flow. In contrast, strong downdrafts occur in association with low-level outflow and upper-level inflow.

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Andrew T. Hazelton, Robert F. Rogers, and Robert E. Hart

Abstract

Understanding the structure and evolution of the tropical cyclone (TC) inner core remains an elusive challenge in tropical meteorology, especially the role of transient asymmetric features such as localized strong updrafts known as convective bursts (CBs). This study investigates the formation of CBs and their role in TC structure and evolution using high-resolution simulations of two Atlantic hurricanes (Dean in 2007 and Bill in 2009) with the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model.

Several different aspects of the dynamics and thermodynamics of the TC inner-core region are investigated with respect to their influence on TC convective burst development. Composites with CBs show stronger radial inflow in the lowest 2 km, and stronger radial outflow from the eye to the eyewall around z = 2–4 km, than composites without CBs. Asymmetric vorticity associated with eyewall mesovortices appears to be a major factor in some of the radial flow anomalies that lead to CB development. The anomalous outflow from these mesovortices, along with outflow from supergradient parcels above the boundary layer, favors low-level convergence and also appears to mix high-θ e air from the eye into the eyewall. Analyses of individual CBs and parcel trajectories show that parcels are pulled into the eye and briefly mix with the eye air. The parcels then rapidly move outward into the eyewall, and quickly ascend in CBs, in some cases with vertical velocities of over 20 m s−1. These results support the importance of horizontal asymmetries in forcing extreme asymmetric vertical velocity in tropical cyclones.

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Andrew T. Hazelton, Robert E. Hart, and Robert F. Rogers

Abstract

This paper investigates convective burst (CB) evolution in Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model simulations of two tropical cyclones (TCs), focusing on the relationship between CBs and TC intensity change. Analysis of intensity change in the simulations shows that there are more CBs inside the radius of maximum winds (RMW) during times when the TCs are about to intensify, while weakening/steady times are associated with more CBs outside the RMW, consistent with past observational and theoretical studies. The vertical mass flux distributions show greater vertical mass flux at upper levels both from weaker updrafts and CBs for intensifying cases. The TC simulations are further dissected by past intensity change, and times of sustained intensification have more CBs than times when the TC has been weakening but then intensifies. This result suggests that CB development may not always be predictive of intensification, but rather may occur as a result of ongoing intensification and contribute to ongoing intensification. Abrupt short-term intensification is found to be associated with an even higher density of CBs inside the RMW than is slower intensification. Lag correlations between CBs and intensity reveal a broad peak, with the CBs leading pressure falls by 0–3 h. These relationships are further confirmed by analysis of individual simulation periods, although the relationship can vary depending on environmental conditions and the previous evolution of the TC. These results show that increased convection due to both weak updrafts and CBs inside the RMW is favorable for sustained TC intensification and show many details of the typical short-term response of the TC core to CBs.

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John Molinari, Jun A. Zhang, Robert F. Rogers, and David Vollaro

Abstract

Hurricane Frances (2004) represented an unusual event that produced three consecutive overlapping eyewall replacement cycles (ERCs). Their evolution followed some aspects of the typical ERC. The strong primary eyewalls contracted and outward-sloping secondary eyewalls formed near 3 times the radius of maximum winds. Over time these secondary eyewalls shifted inward, became more upright, and replaced the primary eyewalls. In other aspects, however, the ERCs in Hurricane Frances differed from previously described composites. The outer eyewall wind maxima became stronger than the inner in only 12 h, versus 25 h for average ERCs. More than 15 m s−1 outflow peaked in the upper troposphere during each ERC. Relative vorticity maxima peaked at the surface but extended to mid- and upper levels. Mean 200-hPa zonal velocity was often from the east, whereas ERC environments typically have zonal flow from the west. These easterlies were produced by an intense upper anticyclone slightly displaced from the center and present throughout the period of multiple ERCs. Inertial stability was low at almost all azimuths at 175 hPa near the 500-km radius during the period of interest. It is hypothesized that the reduced resistance to outflow associated with low inertial stability aloft induced deep upward motion and rapid intensification of the secondary eyewalls. The annular hurricane index of Knaff et al. showed that Hurricane Frances met all the criteria for annular hurricanes, which make up only 4% of all storms. It is argued that the annular hurricane directly resulted from the repeated ERCs following Wang’s reasoning.

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Jun A. Zhang, Robert F. Rogers, and Vijay Tallapragada

Abstract

This study evaluates the impact of the modification of the vertical eddy diffusivity (K m) in the boundary layer parameterization of the Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) Model on forecasts of tropical cyclone (TC) rapid intensification (RI). Composites of HWRF forecasts of Hurricanes Earl (2010) and Karl (2010) were compared for two versions of the planetary boundary layer (PBL) scheme in HWRF. The results show that using a smaller value of K m, in better agreement with observations, improves RI forecasts. The composite-mean, inner-core structures for the two sets of runs at the time of RI onset are compared with observational, theoretical, and modeling studies of RI to determine why the runs with reduced K m are more likely to undergo RI. It is found that the forecasts with reduced K m at the RI onset have a shallower boundary layer with stronger inflow, more unstable near-surface air outside the eyewall, stronger and deeper updrafts in regions farther inward from the radius of maximum wind (RMW), and stronger boundary layer convergence closer to the storm center, although the mean storm intensity (as measured by the 10-m winds) is similar for the two groups. Finally, it is found that the departure of the maximum tangential wind from the gradient wind at the eyewall, and the inward advection of angular momentum outside the eyewall, is much larger in the forecasts with reduced K m. This study emphasizes the important role of the boundary layer structure and dynamics in TC intensity change, supporting recent studies emphasizing boundary layer spinup mechanism, and recommends further improvement to the HWRF PBL physics.

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Robert F. Rogers, Paul D. Reasor, and Jun A. Zhang

Abstract

The structure and evolution of Hurricane Earl (2010) during its rapid intensification as sampled by aircraft is studied here. Rapid intensification occurs in two stages. During the early stage, covering ~24 h, Earl was a tropical storm experiencing moderate northeasterly shear with an asymmetric distribution of convection, and the symmetric structure was shallow, broad, and diffuse. The upper-level circulation center was significantly displaced from the lower-level circulation at the beginning of this stage. Deep, vigorous convection—termed convective bursts—was located on the east side of the storm and appeared to play a role in positioning the upper-level cyclonic circulation center above the low-level center. By the end of this stage the vortex was aligned and extended over a deep layer, and rapid intensification began. During the late stage, rapid intensification continued as Earl intensified ~20 m s−1 during the next 24 h. The vortex remained aligned in the presence of weaker vertical shear, although azimuthal asymmetries persisted that were characteristic of vortices in shear. Convective bursts concentrated near the radius of maximum winds, with the majority located inside the radius of maximum winds. Each of the two stages described here raises questions about the role of convective- and vortex-scale processes in rapid intensification. During the early stage, the focus is on the role of convective bursts and their associated mesoscale convective system on vortex alignment and the onset of rapid intensification. During the late stage, the focus is on the processes that explain the observed radial distribution of convective bursts that peak inside the radius of maximum winds.

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Robert F. Rogers, Paul D. Reasor, and Jun A. Zhang
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