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Zhuo Wang

Abstract

Infrared brightness temperature data are used to investigate convective evolution during tropical cyclone (TC) formation in a quasi-Lagrangian framework. More than 150 named Atlantic storms during 1989–2010 were examined. It is found that both convective intensity and convective frequency increase with time in the inner pouch region but change little, or even weaken slightly, in the outer pouch region. Convection thus appears to concentrate toward the circulation center as genesis is approached. However, large variability is found from storm to storm in convective intensity, area, and duration, and the convective evolution of individual storms does not resemble the composite mean. Further analysis suggests that the composite mean or the median represents the probability of occurrence of convection instead of a recurrent pattern. Three distinct spatial patterns of convection are identified using cluster analysis. Substantial differences in convection intensity and area are found among the clusters and can be attributed to the impacts of environmental conditions. These differences suggest that convection intensity or area is not a key feature of convection for tropical cyclogenesis. In particular, a small and weak convective system is not necessarily associated with a weak vortex. A simple proxy of the radial gradient of convection is found to be similar among the clusters. Furthermore, convection is most effective in strengthening the TC protovortex when its maximum occurs near the pouch center. These findings suggest that organized convection near the pouch center is a key feature of convection for tropical cyclogenesis and that emphasizing convective intensity or frequency without considering the spatial pattern may be misleading.

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Zhuo Wang

Abstract

The role of cumulus congestus (shallow and congestus convection) in tropical cyclone (TC) formation is examined in a high-resolution simulation of Tropical Cyclone Fay (2008). It is found that cumulus congestus plays a dominant role in moistening the lower to middle troposphere and spinning up the near-surface circulation prior to genesis, while deep convection plays a key role in moistening the upper troposphere and intensifying the cyclonic circulation over a deep layer. The transition from the tropical wave stage to the TC stage is marked by a substantial increase in net condensation and potential vorticity generation by deep convection in the inner wave pouch region.

This study suggests that TC formation can be regarded as a two-stage process. The first stage is a gradual process of moisture preconditioning and low-level spinup, in which cumulus congestus plays a dominant role. The second stage commences with the rapid development of deep convection in the inner pouch region after the air column is moistened sufficiently, whereupon the concentrated convective heating near the pouch center strengthens the transverse circulation and leads to the amplification of the cyclonic circulation over a deep layer. The rapid development of deep convection can be explained by the power-law increase of precipitation rate with column water vapor (CWV) above a critical value. The high CWV near the pouch center thus plays an important role in convective organization. It is also shown that cumulus congestus can effectively drive the low-level convergence and provides a direct and simple pathway for the development of the TC protovortex near the surface.

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Zhuo Wang

Abstract

The thermodynamic aspects of tropical cyclone (TC) formation near the center of the wave pouch, a region of approximately closed Lagrangian circulation within the wave critical layer, are examined through diagnoses of a high-resolution numerical simulation and dropsonde data from a recent field campaign. It is found that the meso-β area near the pouch center is characterized by high saturation fraction, small difference in equivalent potential temperature θe between the surface and the middle troposphere, and a short incubation time scale. Updrafts tend to be more vigorous in this region, presumably because of reduced dry air entrainment, while downdrafts are not suppressed. The thermodynamic conditions near the pouch center are thus critically important for TC formation.

The balanced responses to convective and stratiform heating at the pregenesis stage are examined using the Sawyer–Eliassen equation. Deep convection is concentrated near the pouch center. The strong radial and vertical gradients of latent heat release effectively force the transverse circulation and spin up a surface protovortex near the pouch center. Stratiform heating induces modest midlevel inflow and very weak low-level outflow, which contributes to the midlevel spinup without substantially spinning down the low-level circulation.

The analysis of dropsonde data shows that the midlevel θe increases significantly near the pouch center one to two days prior to genesis but changes little away from the pouch center. This may indicate convective organization and the impending TC genesis. It also suggests that the critical information of TC genesis near the pouch center may be masked out if a spatial average is taken over the pouch scale.

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Zhuo Wang

Abstract

The statistics of convective processes and vertical vorticity from the tropical wave to tropical cyclone stage are examined in a high-resolution simulation of Tropical Cyclone Fay (2008). The intensity of vertical velocity follows approximately the truncated lognormal distribution in the model simulation, which is consistent with previous observational studies. The upward motion at the pregenesis stage is weaker compared to mature hurricanes or midlatitude thunderstorms. The relatively strong upward velocities occupying a small areal fraction make a substantial contribution to the upward mass and moisture fluxes and condensation.

It is also found that upward motion and downward motion both intensify with time, but the former is stronger than the latter, and the mean vertical motion and the mean vertical mass flux thus increase with time. By contrast, the maximum anticyclonic vorticity is comparable to the maximum cyclonic vorticity in magnitude. Both cyclonic vorticity and anticyclonic vorticity intensify with time, but the former covers a larger areal fraction in the lower and middle troposphere and becomes dominant throughout the troposphere after genesis.

Sensitivity tests with different model resolutions were carried out to test the robustness of the results. When the horizontal grid spacing is reduced, the size of updrafts decreases and the number of updrafts increases, but the areal fraction of updrafts, the mean vertical velocity, and the mean vertical mass flux are rather insensitive to the model resolution, especially in the lower troposphere and when the model resolution is 1 km or higher. This may explain why models with relatively coarse resolution can simulate tropical cyclogenesis reasonably well.

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Zhuo Wang and Isaac Hankes

Abstract

The simultaneous precipitation and column water vapor retrievals from the SSM/I and SSMIS passive microwave instruments were used to examine the convective and moisture evolution during tropical cyclone formation. Using a wave-pouch-track dataset, composites of precipitation and column water vapor were constructed with more than 2000 satellite overpasses for a 3-day time period prior to genesis. It was found that high column water vapor occurs near the pouch center and starts to increase about 42 h prior to genesis while a substantial increase in precipitation occurs within 24 h prior to genesis. These features are consistent with a recently proposed two-stage conceptual model for tropical cyclone formation, in which gradual moisture preconditioning precedes an abrupt transition to sustained deep convection leading up to genesis.

The relationship between precipitation and saturation fraction (SF) is examined for the developing waves and compared with the general tropical North Atlantic. Precipitation rate is found to increase at the same exponential rate above the same critical point of SF in the two groups, but convection in the developing waves has a higher probability of occurrence near and above criticality. This can be attributed to the positive feedback between convection and the low-level moisture convergence, which counteracts the negative feedback of convection on water vapor and makes convection in a developing tropical cyclone more sustainable.

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Cody Fritz and Zhuo Wang

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The impacts of dry air on tropical cyclone formation are examined in the numerical model simulations of ex-Gaston (2010) and pre-Fay (2008). The former, a remnant low downgraded from a short-lived tropical cyclone, can be regarded as a nondeveloping system because it failed to redevelop, and the latter developed into a tropical cyclone despite lateral dry air entrainment and a transient upper-level dry air intrusion. Water vapor budget analysis suggests that the mean vertical moisture transport plays the dominant role in moistening the free atmosphere. Backward trajectory analysis and water budget analysis show that vertical transport of dry air from the middle and upper troposphere, where a well-defined wave pouch is absent, contributes to the midlevel drying near the pouch center in ex-Gaston. The midlevel drying suppresses deep convection, reduces moisture supply from the boundary layer, and contributes to the nondevelopment of ex-Gaston. Three-dimensional trajectory analysis based on the numerical model simulation of Fay suggests that dry air entrained at the pouch periphery tends to stay off the pouch center because of the weak midlevel inflow or gets moistened along its path even if it is being wrapped into the wave pouch. Lateral entrainment in the middle troposphere thus does not suppress convection near the pouch center or prevent the development of Tropical Storm Fay. This study suggests that the upper troposphere is a weak spot of the wave pouch at the early formation stage and that the vertical transport is likely a more direct pathway for dry air to influence moist convection near the pouch center.

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Zhuo Wang and Isaac Hankes

Abstract

The pregenesis evolution of wave pouches was examined for 164 named tropical cyclones that originated from zonally propagating tropical easterly waves over the Atlantic during July–October 1989–2010 using the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Interim Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) and the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) morphing technique (CMORPH) precipitation. East of 60°W, most wave pouches (~80%) form at 700 hPa first, often extending down to 850 or 925 hPa off the coast of West Africa. By contrast, the majority of the wave pouches (~68%) over the west Atlantic (west of 60°W) form at 850 or 925 hPa first. Wave pouches become more vertically aligned approaching genesis. It was also found that vorticity at 925 hPa intensifies faster than that at 600 hPa. A warm-core structure forms at the meso-β scale near the pouch center prior to genesis but is less well defined at the meso-α pouch scale. The evolution of precipitation and the low-level convergence suggests that convection begins to organize near the pouch center about 1 day prior to genesis, along with the rapid intensification of vorticity in the inner pouch region. The composites derived from ERA-Interim show that the inner pouch region has higher specific humidity and equivalent potential temperature, especially in the middle troposphere within 1 day prior to genesis.

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Gan Zhang and Zhuo Wang

Abstract

This study investigates the life cycle of anticyclonic Rossby wave breaking during the extended warm season (July–October) over the North Atlantic basin. It was found that upper-tropospheric breaking waves are coupled with lower-level perturbations and can be traced back to a wave train that extends from the North Pacific. The overturning of potential vorticity (PV) contours during wave breaking is associated with the rapid development of an upper-level ridge, which occurs along the east coast of North America and over a warm and moist airstream. The ridge development is investigated using the PV budget analysis and trajectory analysis. The PV budget analysis suggests that the horizontal advection of PV by the perturbed flow dictates the movement and the later decay of the ridge. The ridge amplification, opposed by the horizontal advection of PV, is driven by the vertical advection and the diabatic production of PV, both of which are connected to diabatic heating. The vital role of diabatic heating in the ridge amplification is corroborated by the trajectory analysis. The analysis suggests that diabatic heating reduces the static stability near the tropopause and contributes to the ridge-related negative PV anomalies. The role of diabatic heating in anticyclonic and cyclonic wave breaking in other regions is also discussed. The findings suggest that moist diabatic processes, which were often excluded from the earlier studies of wave breaking, are crucial for Rossby wave breaking during the warm season. The updated understanding of wave breaking may benefit weather forecasting and climate predictions.

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Zhuo Wang and Xubin Zeng

Abstract

Snow albedo plays an important role in land models for weather, climate, and hydrometeorological studies, but its treatment in various land models still contains significant deficiencies. Complementary to previous studies that evaluated the snow albedo as part of an overall land model study, the snow albedo formulations as used in four major weather forecasting and climate models [European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) “Noah” land model, National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Community Land Model (CLM3), and NCEP global model] were directly evaluated here using multiyear Boreal Ecosystem–Atmosphere Study (BOREAS) in situ data over grass and forest sites. First, four idealized cases over grass and forest sites were designed to understand better the different albedo formulations in these models. Then the BOREAS data were used to evaluate snow albedo and relevant formulations and to identify deficiencies of each model. Based on these analyses, suggestions that involve only minor changes in parameters or formulations were made to significantly reduce these deficiencies of each model. For the ECMWF land model, using the square root of snow water equivalent (SWE), rather than SWE itself, in the computation of snow fraction would significantly reduce the underestimation of albedo over grass. For the NCEP Noah land model, reducing (increasing) the critical SWE for full snow cover over short (tall) vegetation would reduce the underestimate (overestimate) of snow albedo over the grass (forest) site. For the NCAR CLM3, revising the coefficient used in the ground snow-fraction computation would substantially reduce the albedo underestimation over grass. For the albedo formulations in the NCEP global model, replacing the globally constant fresh snow albedo by the vegetation-type-dependent Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) maximum snow albedo would significantly improve the overestimation of model albedo over forest.

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Cody Fritz and Zhuo Wang

Abstract

Evolution of the water vapor budget from the tropical wave stage to the tropical cyclone stage is examined using a high-resolution numerical model simulation. The focus is on a time window from 27 h prior to genesis to 9 h after genesis, and the diagnoses are carried out in the framework of the marsupial paradigm. Analysis shows that the vertically integrated inward moisture flux accounts for a majority of the total condensation and that its fractional contribution increases from the tropical wave stage to the tropical cyclone stage. The fractional contribution of the local evaporation is much smaller and decreases from the tropical wave stage to the tropical cyclone stage. It is also shown that the radial moisture flux above 850 hPa is rather weak prior to genesis but increases significantly after genesis because of the deepening of the inflow layer. The decrease in the fractional contribution of the local evaporation, or the increase in the fractional contribution of the vertically integrated inward moisture flux, is due to the strengthening of the low-level convergence associated with the secondary circulation. The intensification of the secondary circulation can be attributed to the organized convection and concentrated diabatic heating near the circulation center. The results suggest that the local evaporation and its positive interaction with the primary circulation may not be as important as generally appreciated for tropical cyclone development. By contrast, the increase in the fractional contribution by the inward moisture flux with the storm intensification implies the importance of the positive feedback among the primary circulation, the secondary circulation, and convection for tropical cyclone development.

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