A Numerical Study of the Outflow layer of Tropical Cyclones

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  • 1 Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
  • | 2 Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, D.C.
  • | 3 Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
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Abstract

The structure and dynamics of the outflow layer of tropical cyclones are studied using a three-dimensional numerical model. Weak and strong tropical cyclones are produced by the numerical model when starting from idealized initial vortices embedded in mean hurricane soundings. The quasi-steady state outflow layers of both the weak and strong tropical cyclones have similar characteristics 1) the circulations are mainly anticyclonic (except for a small region of cyclonic flow near the center) and highly asymmetric about the center, 2) the outflow layer is dominated by a narrow but elongated outflow jet, which contributes up to 50% of the angular momentum transport and 3) the air particles in the outflow jet mostly originate from the lower level, following “in-up-and-out” trajectories.

We found that there are secondary circulations around the outflow jet, very much like those associated with midlatitude westerly jet streaks. In the jet entrance region, the secondary circulation is thermally direct. That is, the ascending motion is located on the anticyclonic shear side of the jet, and the descending motion on the cyclonic shear side. There is a radially outward (perpendicular to the jet) flow above the jet and inflow below it. In the jet exit region, the secondary circulation is weaker and reversed in its direction (thermally indirect). The secondary circulations leave pronounced signatures on the relative humidity, potential vorticity, and tropopause height fields. The secondary circulation is more intense in the stronger tropical cyclone (with a stronger outflow jet) than in the weaker tropical cyclone.

The sensitivities to upper-tropospheric forcing of the outflow are tested in numerical experiments with prescribed forcings. It is found that the simulated tropical cyclone intensifies when its upper levels within a radius of approximately 500 km are accelerated and forced to be more divergent. Convection plays a key role in transforming the upper level divergence into low level convergence. In another experiment, additional regions of convection are initiated in the ascending branches of the circum-jet secondary circulations away from the inner region when the outflow jet between the radii of 500 and 1000 km is accelerated. These regions of convection become competitive with the inner core convection and eventually weaken the tropical cyclone. In both experiments, cumulus convection is the major link between the upper-level forcing and tropical cyclone's response.

Abstract

The structure and dynamics of the outflow layer of tropical cyclones are studied using a three-dimensional numerical model. Weak and strong tropical cyclones are produced by the numerical model when starting from idealized initial vortices embedded in mean hurricane soundings. The quasi-steady state outflow layers of both the weak and strong tropical cyclones have similar characteristics 1) the circulations are mainly anticyclonic (except for a small region of cyclonic flow near the center) and highly asymmetric about the center, 2) the outflow layer is dominated by a narrow but elongated outflow jet, which contributes up to 50% of the angular momentum transport and 3) the air particles in the outflow jet mostly originate from the lower level, following “in-up-and-out” trajectories.

We found that there are secondary circulations around the outflow jet, very much like those associated with midlatitude westerly jet streaks. In the jet entrance region, the secondary circulation is thermally direct. That is, the ascending motion is located on the anticyclonic shear side of the jet, and the descending motion on the cyclonic shear side. There is a radially outward (perpendicular to the jet) flow above the jet and inflow below it. In the jet exit region, the secondary circulation is weaker and reversed in its direction (thermally indirect). The secondary circulations leave pronounced signatures on the relative humidity, potential vorticity, and tropopause height fields. The secondary circulation is more intense in the stronger tropical cyclone (with a stronger outflow jet) than in the weaker tropical cyclone.

The sensitivities to upper-tropospheric forcing of the outflow are tested in numerical experiments with prescribed forcings. It is found that the simulated tropical cyclone intensifies when its upper levels within a radius of approximately 500 km are accelerated and forced to be more divergent. Convection plays a key role in transforming the upper level divergence into low level convergence. In another experiment, additional regions of convection are initiated in the ascending branches of the circum-jet secondary circulations away from the inner region when the outflow jet between the radii of 500 and 1000 km is accelerated. These regions of convection become competitive with the inner core convection and eventually weaken the tropical cyclone. In both experiments, cumulus convection is the major link between the upper-level forcing and tropical cyclone's response.

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