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Wen-Chau Lee and Joshua Wurman

Abstract

On 3 May 1999, an unusually large tornado that caused F4-level damage and killed several people was intercepted by the Doppler on Wheels (DOW) mobile radar near Mulhall, Oklahoma, from a range of 4 to 9 km, resulting in high-resolution volumetric data every 55 s up to 1.5-km altitude over a period of 14 min. For the first time, the evolution and three-dimensional structure of a tornado were deduced using the ground-based velocity track display (GBVTD) technique. After the circulation center was determined, the tangential wind and radial wind were derived from the GBVTD technique at each radius and height. In addition, the axisymmetric vertical velocity, angular momentum, vorticity, and perturbation pressure were deduced from the tangential and radial wind fields. This study focuses on the axisymmetric aspects of this tornado.

The primary circulation of the Mulhall tornado consisted of an 84 m s−1 peak axisymmetric tangential wind with the radius of maximum wind (RMW) ranging from 500 to 1000 m. The secondary circulation exhibited a two-cell structure characterized by a central downdraft surrounded by an annular updraft near the RMW. The calculated maximum pressure deficit from a 3-km radius to the tornado center at 50-m altitude was −80 hPa. The maximum vorticity during the first 8 min of observation was located inside the RMW away from the tornado center. This vorticity profile satisfied the necessary condition of barotropic instability. As the tornado weakened afterward, the vorticity monotonically increased toward the center. The computed swirl ratios were between 2 and 6, consistent with the observed multiple vortex radar signatures and the vorticity pattern. Swirl ratios were generally smaller during the weakening phase.

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Christopher A. Davis and Wen-Chau Lee

Abstract

The authors analyze the mesoscale structure accompanying two multiday periods of heavy rainfall during the Southwest Monsoon Experiment and the Terrain-Induced Mesoscale Rainfall Experiment conducted over and near Taiwan during May and June 2008. Each period is about 5–6 days long with episodic heavy rainfall events within. These events are shown to correspond primarily to periods when well-defined frontal boundaries are established near the coast. The boundaries are typically 1 km deep or less and feature contrasts of virtual temperature of only 2°–3°C. Yet, owing to the extremely moist condition of the upstream conditionally unstable air, these boundaries appear to exert a profound influence on convection initiation or intensification near the coast. Furthermore, the boundaries, once established, are long lived, possibly reinforced through cool downdrafts and prolonged by the absence of diurnal heating over land in generally cloudy conditions. These boundaries are linked phenomenologically with coastal fronts that occur at higher latitudes.

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Xiaowen Tang, Wen-Chau Lee, and Michael Bell

Abstract

The principal rainband in tropical cyclones is currently depicted as a solitary and continuous precipitation region. However, the airborne radar observations of the principal rainband in Typhoon Hagupit (2008) reveal multiple subrainband structures. These subbands possess many characteristics of the squall lines with trailing stratiform in the midlatitudes and are different from those documented in previous principal rainband studies. The updraft and reflectivity cores are upright and elevated. The updraft is fed by a low-level radial outflow from the inner side. The tangential wind speed shows a clear midlevel jet on the inner side of the reflectivity core. Except for the structural similarities, the dynamics of the subbands is also similar to the squall lines. The local environment near the subbands shows little convective inhibition, modest instability, and vertical wind shear. The temperature retrieval shows a cold pool structure in the stratiform precipitation region. The estimated vertical wind shear induced by the cold pool is close to that of the local environment. The structural and dynamic similarities to the squall lines imply that the variation of principal rainbands is subjected to convective-scale dynamics related to the local environment in addition to storm-scale dynamics. The subbands show positive impacts to the vortex intensity in terms of potential vorticity redistribution and absolute angular momentum advection. The positive impacts are closely related to specific structural characteristics of the subbands, which suggests the importance of understanding the convective-scale structure and dynamics of the principal rainband.

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Xiaowen Tang, Wen-Chau Lee, and Michael Bell

Abstract

This study examines the structure and dynamics of Typhoon Hagupit’s (2008) principal rainband using airborne radar and dropsonde observations. The convection in Hagupit’s principal rainband was organized into a well-defined line with trailing stratiform precipitation on the inner side. Individual convective cells had intense updrafts and downdrafts and were aligned in a wavelike pattern along the line. The line-averaged vertical cross section possessed a slightly inward-tilting convective core and two branches of low-level inflow feeding the convection. The result of a thermodynamic retrieval showed a pronounced cold pool behind the convective line. The horizontal and vertical structures of this principal rainband show characteristics that are different than the existing conceptual model and are more similar to squall lines and outer rainbands.

The unique convective structure of Hagupit’s principal rainband was associated with veering low-level vertical wind shear and large convective instability in the environment. A quantitative assessment of the cold pool strength showed that it was quasi balanced with that of the low-level vertical wind shear. The balanced state and the structural characteristics of convection in Hagupit’s principal rainband were dynamically consistent with the theory of cold pool dynamics widely applied to strong and long-lived squall lines. The analyses suggest that cold pool dynamics played a role in determining the principal rainband structure in addition to storm-scale vortex dynamics.

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Xiaowen Tang, Wen-Chau Lee, and Yuan Wang

Abstract

The application of the distance velocity azimuth display (DVAD) method to the retrieval of vertical wind profiles from single-Doppler radar observations is presented in this study. It was shown that Doppler velocity observations at a constant altitude can be expressed as a single polynomial function for both linear and nonlinear wind fields in DVAD. Only a one-step least squares fitting of a polynomial function is required to obtain the vertical wind profile of a real wind field. The mathematic formulation of DVAD results in two advantages over the traditional nonlinear VAD method used for the nonlinear analysis of single-Doppler observations. First, the requirement of only one-step least squares fitting leads to robust performance when Doppler velocity observations are contaminated by unevenly distributed data noise and voids. Second, the degree of nonlinearity to properly represent a real wind field can be directly estimated in DVAD instead of being empirically determined in the traditional method. A proper nonlinear wind model for approximating the real wind field can be objectively derived using the DVAD method. The merits of DVAD as a quantitative single-Doppler analysis method were compared with the traditional method using both idealized and real datasets. Results show that the simplicity and robust performance of DVAD make it a good candidate for single-Doppler retrieval in operational use.

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Wen-Chau Lee and Frank D. Marks Jr.

Abstract

This paper is the second of a series and focuses on developing an algorithm to objectively identify tropical cyclone (TC) vorticity centers using single-Doppler radar data. The first paper dealt with the formulation of a single-Doppler radar TC wind retrieval technique, the ground-based velocity-track-display (GBVTD), and the results are verified using analytical TCs. It has been acknowledged that the quality of the GBVTD-retrieved TC circulation strongly depends on accurately knowing its center position. However, existing single-Doppler radar center finding algorithms are limited to estimate centers for axisymmetric TCs. The proposed algorithm uses a simplex method to objectively estimate the TC vorticity center by maximizing GBVTD-retrieved mean tangential wind.

When tested with a number of axisymmetric and asymmetric analytical TCs, the accuracy of the TC centers estimated by the GBVTD-simplex algorithm is ≈340 m from the true center. When adding 5 m s−1 random noise to the Doppler velocities, the accuracy of the TC centers is nearly unchanged at 350 m. When applying the GBVTD-simplex algorithm to Typhoon Alex (1987), the estimated uncertainty varies between 0.1 and 2 km. When the overall velocity gradient is weak, the uncertainties in the retrieved TC centers are usually large. The GBVTD-simplex algorithm sometimes has problems finding a solution when a large sector of Doppler radar data is missing in conjunction with weak velocity gradients.

The GBVTD-simplex algorithm significantly reduces the uncertainties in estimating TC center position compared with existing methods and improves the quality of the GBVTD-retrieved TC circulation. The GBVTD-simplex algorithm is computationally efficient and can be easily adapted for real-time applications.

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Michael M. Bell and Wen-Chau Lee

Abstract

This study presents an extension of the ground-based velocity track display (GBVTD)-simplex tropical cyclone (TC) circulation center–finding algorithm to further improve the accuracy and consistency of TC center estimates from single-Doppler radar data. The improved center-finding method determines a TC track that ensures spatial and temporal continuities of four primary characteristics: the radius of maximum wind, the maximum axisymmetric tangential wind, and the latitude and longitude of the TC circulation center. A statistical analysis improves the consistency of the TC centers over time and makes it possible to automate the GBVTD-simplex algorithm for tracking of landfalling TCs. The characteristics and performance of this objective statistical center-finding method are evaluated using datasets from Hurricane Danny (1997) and Bret (1999) over 5-h periods during which both storms were simultaneously observed by two coastal Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) units. Independent single-Doppler and dual-Doppler centers are determined and used to assess the absolute accuracy of the algorithm. Reductions of 50% and 10% in the average distance between independent center estimates are found for Danny and Bret, respectively, over the original GBVTD-simplex method. The average center uncertainties are estimated to be less than 2 km, yielding estimated errors of less than 5% in the retrieved radius of maximum wind and wavenumber-0 axisymmetric tangential wind, and ~30% error in the wavenumber-1 asymmetric tangential wind. The objective statistical center-finding method can be run on a time scale comparable to that of a WSR-88D volume scan, thus making it a viable tool for both research and operational use.

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Zhan Li, Zhaoxia Pu, Juanzhen Sun, and Wen-Chau Lee

Abstract

The Weather Research and Forecasting Model and its four-dimensional variational data assimilation (4DVAR) system are employed to examine the impact of airborne Doppler radar observations on predicting the genesis of Typhoon Nuri (2008). Electra Doppler Radar (ELDORA) airborne radar data, collected during the Office of Naval Research–sponsored Tropical Cyclone Structure 2008 field experiment, are used for data assimilation experiments. Two assimilation methods are evaluated and compared, namely, the direct assimilation of radar-measured radial velocity and the assimilation of three-dimensional wind analysis derived from the radar radial velocity. Results show that direct assimilation of radar radial velocity leads to better intensity forecasts, as this process enhances the development of convective systems and improves the inner-core structure of Nuri, whereas assimilation of the radar-retrieved wind analysis is more beneficial for tracking forecasts, as it results in improved environmental flows. The assimilation of both the radar-retrieved wind and the radial velocity can lead to better forecasts in both intensity and tracking, if the radial velocity observations are assimilated first and the retrieved winds are then assimilated in the same data assimilation window. In addition, experiments with and without radar data assimilation led to developing and nondeveloping disturbances in numerical simulations of Nuri’s genesis. The improved initial conditions and forecasts from the data assimilation imply that the enhanced midlevel vortex and moisture conditions are favorable for the development of deep convection in the center of the pouch and eventually contribute to Nuri’s genesis. The improved simulations of the convection and associated environmental conditions produce enhanced upper-level warming in the core region and lead to the drop in sea level pressure.

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Jun Li, Yi-Leng Chen, and Wen-Chau Lee

Abstract

A heavy rainfall event during the Taiwan Area Mesoscale Experiment intensive observing period 13 has been studied using upper-air, surface mesonet, and dual-Doppler radar data. The heavy rainfall (≥231 mm day−1) occurred over northwestern Taiwan with the maximum rainfall along the northwestern coast and was caused by a long-lived, convective rainband in the prefrontal atmosphere. It occurred in an upper-level divergence region and along the axis of the maximum equivalent potential temperature at the 850-hPa level.

As a Mei-Yu front advanced southeastward, the postfrontal cold air in the lowest levels was retarded by the hilly terrain along the southeastern China coast. As a result, a low-level wind-shift line associated with a pressure trough at the 850-hPa level moved over the Taiwan Strait before the arrival of the surface front. The westerly flow behind the trough interacted with a barrier jet along the northwestern coast of Taiwan. The barrier jet is caused by the interaction between the prefrontal southwest monsoon flow and the island obstacle. A low-level convergence zone (∼3 km deep) was observed along the wind-shift line between the westerly flow coming off the southeastern China coast and the barrier jet. A long-lived rainband developed within the low-level convergence zone and moved southeastward toward the northwestern Taiwan coast with the wind-shift line.

There were several long-lived (>2 h) reflectivity maxima embedded in the rainband. They often had several individual cells with a much shorter lifetime. The reflectivity maxima formed on the southwestern tip of the rainband and along the low-level wind-shift line. They intensified during their movement from the southwest to the northeast along the rainband. The continuous generation of the reflectivity maxima along the wind-shift line and the intensification of them over the low-level convergence zone maintained the long lifetime of the rainband and produced persistent heavy rainfall along the northwestern coast as these reflectivity maxima moved toward the coast. During the early stage of their lifetime, the reflectivity maxima were observed along the wind-shift line with upward motion in the lower troposphere. As they moved toward the northeastern part of the rainband and matured, the reflectivity maxima were observed southeast of the convergence zone with sinking motion in the lower troposphere. The upward motion was rooted along the wind-shift line and tilted southeastward with height. The reflectivity maxima dissipated as they moved inland. During the early stage of the rainband, the reflectivity maxima on the northeastern part of the rainband also merged with the convective line associated with the land-breeze front offshore of the northwestern coast.

The Mei-Yu front was shallow (<1 km) and moved slowly southward along the western coast. Convection associated with the front was weak with echo tops (∼10 dBZ) below 6 km.

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Richard E. Carbone, William A. Cooper, and Wen-Chau Lee

Abstract

Hawaii is an island approximately 4 km high, the lower portion of which is immersed in an easterly trade-wind layer that is typically 2 km deep. Blockage of the trade wind combined with diurnal, thermally driven circulations, leads to a general flow stagnation along the windward slopes and to a reversal of flow at night. This westerly downslope flow is confluent with the incoming trade wind and usually extends offshore. From observations in the Hawaiian Rainband Project, this flow is examined to determine if it is primarily driven by blocking dynamics or thermal forcing.

It is determined that the westerly downslope flow is principally a thermally driven circulation and that it closely resembles a density drainage current. This flow is normally initiated by evaporative cooling, principally from orographic rainfall, but perhaps also from evapotranspiration. Under less cloudy and precipitation-free conditions, downslope flow can be initiated and maintained by radiative cooling of the land surface, but such conditions are unusual at the initiation stage. Once the downslope flow is initiated, the ratio of cooling to moistening indicates that radiative cooling also contributes significantly, and sometimes strongly, to the production of negative buoyancy. Offshore, the pressure gradient created by blocked flow maintains the westerly flow, such that the low-level current sometimes extends 20–30 km upwind of the shoreline. These findings should he generally applicable to windward mountain locations where the upstream air has small conditional instability and low Froude number.

Rainbands often form at the convergence line between this offshore flow and the incoming trade wind, where there is usually a density discontinuity of order 1%. The organization and propagation of those rainbands will be influenced by the low-level cold pool and by the pressure gradient that results from blocked flow.

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