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Genesis of an East Pacific Easterly Wave from a Panama Bight MCS: A Case Study Analysis from June 2012

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado
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Abstract

This study investigates the transition of a Panama Bight mesoscale convective system (MCS) into the easterly wave (EW) that became Hurricane Carlotta (2012). Reanalysis, observations, and a convective-permitting Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model simulation are used to analyze the processes contributing to EW genesis. A vorticity budget analysis shows that convective coupling and vortex stretching are very important to the transition in this case, while horizontal advection is mostly responsible for the propagation of the system. In the model, the disturbance is dominated by stratiform vertical motion profiles and a midlevel vortex, while the system is less top-heavy and is characterized by more prominent low-level vorticity later in the transition in reanalysis. The developing disturbance starts its evolution as a mesoscale convective system in the Bight of Panama. Leading up to MCS formation the Chocó jet intensifies, and during the MCS-to-EW transition the Papagayo jet strengthens. Differences in the vertical structure of the system between reanalysis and the model suggest that the relatively more bottom-heavy disturbance in reanalysis may have stronger interactions with the Papagayo jet. Field observations like those collected during the Organization of Tropical East Pacific Convection (OTREC) campaign are needed to further our understanding of this east Pacific EW genesis pathway and the factors that influence it, including the important role for the vertical structure of the developing disturbances in the context of the vorticity budget.

Corresponding author: Justin W. Whitaker, jwwhit@atmos.colostate.edu

Abstract

This study investigates the transition of a Panama Bight mesoscale convective system (MCS) into the easterly wave (EW) that became Hurricane Carlotta (2012). Reanalysis, observations, and a convective-permitting Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model simulation are used to analyze the processes contributing to EW genesis. A vorticity budget analysis shows that convective coupling and vortex stretching are very important to the transition in this case, while horizontal advection is mostly responsible for the propagation of the system. In the model, the disturbance is dominated by stratiform vertical motion profiles and a midlevel vortex, while the system is less top-heavy and is characterized by more prominent low-level vorticity later in the transition in reanalysis. The developing disturbance starts its evolution as a mesoscale convective system in the Bight of Panama. Leading up to MCS formation the Chocó jet intensifies, and during the MCS-to-EW transition the Papagayo jet strengthens. Differences in the vertical structure of the system between reanalysis and the model suggest that the relatively more bottom-heavy disturbance in reanalysis may have stronger interactions with the Papagayo jet. Field observations like those collected during the Organization of Tropical East Pacific Convection (OTREC) campaign are needed to further our understanding of this east Pacific EW genesis pathway and the factors that influence it, including the important role for the vertical structure of the developing disturbances in the context of the vorticity budget.

Corresponding author: Justin W. Whitaker, jwwhit@atmos.colostate.edu
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