The Environmental Influence on Tropical Cyclone Precipitation

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  • a Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
  • | b Universities Space Research Association, Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
  • | c SSAI, Lanham, Maryland
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Abstract

The intensity, spatial, and temporal changes in precipitation were examined in three North Atlantic hurricanes during 1989 (Dean, Gabrielle, and Hugo) using precipitation estimates made from Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I) measurements. In addition, analyses from a barotropic hurricane forecast model and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecast model were used to examine the relationship between the evolution of the precipitation in these tropical cyclones and external forcing. The external forcing parameters examined were 1) mean climatological sea surface temperatures, 2) vertical wind shear, 3) environmental tropospheric water vapor flux, and 4) upper-tropospheric eddy relative angular momentum flux convergence.

The analyses revealed that 1) the SSM/I precipitation estimates were able to delineate and monitor convective ring cycles similar to those observed with land-based and aircraft radar and in situ measurements; 2) tropical cyclone intensification was observed to occur when these convective rings propagated into the inner core of these systems (within 111 km of the center) and when the precipitation rates increased; 3) tropical cyclone weakening was observed to occur when these inner-core convective rings dissipated; 4) the inward propagation of the outer convective rings coincided with the dissipation of the inner convective rings when they came within 55 km of each other; 5) in regions with the combined warm sea surface temperatures (above 26°C) and low vertical wind shear (less than 5 m s−1), convective rings outside the region of strong lower-tropospheric inertial stability could be initiated by strong surges of tropospheric moisture, while convective rings inside the region of strong lower-tropospheric inertial stability could be enhanced by upper-tropospheric eddy relative angular momentum flux convergence.

Abstract

The intensity, spatial, and temporal changes in precipitation were examined in three North Atlantic hurricanes during 1989 (Dean, Gabrielle, and Hugo) using precipitation estimates made from Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I) measurements. In addition, analyses from a barotropic hurricane forecast model and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecast model were used to examine the relationship between the evolution of the precipitation in these tropical cyclones and external forcing. The external forcing parameters examined were 1) mean climatological sea surface temperatures, 2) vertical wind shear, 3) environmental tropospheric water vapor flux, and 4) upper-tropospheric eddy relative angular momentum flux convergence.

The analyses revealed that 1) the SSM/I precipitation estimates were able to delineate and monitor convective ring cycles similar to those observed with land-based and aircraft radar and in situ measurements; 2) tropical cyclone intensification was observed to occur when these convective rings propagated into the inner core of these systems (within 111 km of the center) and when the precipitation rates increased; 3) tropical cyclone weakening was observed to occur when these inner-core convective rings dissipated; 4) the inward propagation of the outer convective rings coincided with the dissipation of the inner convective rings when they came within 55 km of each other; 5) in regions with the combined warm sea surface temperatures (above 26°C) and low vertical wind shear (less than 5 m s−1), convective rings outside the region of strong lower-tropospheric inertial stability could be initiated by strong surges of tropospheric moisture, while convective rings inside the region of strong lower-tropospheric inertial stability could be enhanced by upper-tropospheric eddy relative angular momentum flux convergence.

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