A Comparison of Large and Small Tropical Cyclones

Robert T. Merrill Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523

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Abstract

In this paper the climatology and structure of, and possible reasons for, tropical cyclones of different sizes are examined. The climatology of tropical cyclone sizes confirms that tropical cyclones of the western North Pacific are characteristically twice as large as their Atlantic counterparts, and also reveals that the typical size of tropical cyclones varies seasonally and regionally and is only weakly correlated with cyclone intensity (maximum surface wind or minimum surface pressure). Rawinsonde composities of large and small tropical cyclones show that large cyclones have much more relative angular momentum (RAM) than small cyclones, while the differences in RAM between intense and weaker cyclones of equivalent size are less. Some of the implications of this observance are discussed, and a hypothesis that cyclones grow as a result of an increased convergence of angular momentum forced by their environment is presented.

Abstract

In this paper the climatology and structure of, and possible reasons for, tropical cyclones of different sizes are examined. The climatology of tropical cyclone sizes confirms that tropical cyclones of the western North Pacific are characteristically twice as large as their Atlantic counterparts, and also reveals that the typical size of tropical cyclones varies seasonally and regionally and is only weakly correlated with cyclone intensity (maximum surface wind or minimum surface pressure). Rawinsonde composities of large and small tropical cyclones show that large cyclones have much more relative angular momentum (RAM) than small cyclones, while the differences in RAM between intense and weaker cyclones of equivalent size are less. Some of the implications of this observance are discussed, and a hypothesis that cyclones grow as a result of an increased convergence of angular momentum forced by their environment is presented.

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