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combining new satellite tools and models to examine role of mesoscale interactions in formation and intensification of tropical cyclonesThe objective of this research is to start filling the mesoscale gap to improve understanding and probability forecasts of formation and intensity variations of tropical cyclones. Sampling by aircraft equipped to measure mesoscale processes is expensive, thus confined in place and time. Hence we turn to satellite products. This paper reports preliminary results of a tropical cyclone genesis and early intensification study. We explore the role of mesoscale processes using a combination of products from TRMM, QuikSCAT, AMSU, also SSM/I, geosynchronous and model output. Major emphasis is on the role of merging mesoscale vortices. These initially form in midlevel stratiform cloud. When they form in regions of lowered Rossby radius of deformation (strong background vorticity) the mesoscale vortices can last long enough to interact and merge, with the weaker vortex losing vorticity to the stronger, which can then extend down to the surface. In an earlier cyclongenesis case (Oliver 1993) off Australia, intense deep convection occurred when the stronger vortex reached the surface; this vortex became the storm center while the weaker vortex was sheared out as the major rainband. In our study of Atlantic tropical cyclones originating from African waves, we use QuikSCAT to examine surface winds in the African monsoon trough and in the vortices which move westward off the coast, which may or may not undergo genesis (defined by NHC as reaching TD, or tropical depression, with a west wind to the south of the surface low). We use AMSU mainly to examine development of warm cores. TRMM passive microwave TMI is used with SSM/I to look at the rain structure, which often indicates eye formation, and to look at the ice scattering signatures of deep convection. The TRMM precipitation radar, PR, when available, gives precipitation cross sections. So far we have detailed studies of two African-origin cyclones, one which became severe hurricane Floyd 1999, and the other reached TD2 in June 2000 and then died out. The atmosphere off West African is dry and stable. It becomes less so between June and September, as the SST and convection heat up. QuikSCAT shows the African monsoon trough and shear zone extend westward over the ocean to nearly 30 degrees West. The evidence is strong that the two cyclones had in common multiple midlevel mergers, which extended to the surface keeping the surface vortex strong. These continued until both systems were designated TD's by NHC. In the June 2000 case, the main reason for failure was the lower SST and dry, stable atmosphere. This is shown by the comparison of the equivalent potential temperature maps and profiles with those from pre-Floyd. In the vortex which became Floyd, QuikSCAT shows continuous importation of high theta e (warm, moist) air from the south. From September 2-8, this air flowed around the vortex center, building up a high theta-e pool to the north. Then late on September 9, a 100-km wide jet of high theta-e air penetrated the vortex core, a major convective burst' was observed, and an intensifying, more elevated warm core was seen on AMSU. Rapid pressure fall and wind intensification were underway by 0000 UTC on September 10. Floyd became a Hurricane at 1200 UTC on Sept 10, 1999, with successive convective bursts running the hurricane thermodynamic engine by intensifying the warm core. TD2 was a strong African vortex, sustained by moderate convection (up to about 12.5 km) offshore of Africa. It peaked on June 23, showing an apparent "eye" on passive microwave composites. However, it could not assemble the ingredients for a convective burst. Thus it failed to get the thermodynamic hurricane engine going before it moved too far west of the region of lowered Rossby radius. By June 26, cloud systems were dying out. On June 25, a surface vortex was no longer seen on QuikSCAT, although one continued above the surface on model profiles until June 27. One of our main findings so far is showing the role of the mesoscale vortex interactions in sustaining some African vortices far out in to the mid Atlantic, where under adequate thermal/moisture conditions the hurricane heat engine can sometimes be started. We are working on similar studies of Cindy and Irene 1999. Cindy illustrates a case of wind shear working against an early-stage hurricane heat engine, while Irene formed from a Caribbean wave. An enormous value of combinations of satellite tools is that tropical cyclones can be studied in all parts of the global oceans where they occur. Detailed studies like ours are labor intensive but many statistical studies can be based on physical postulates developed. There are other new tools such as MODIS on TERRA of the Earth Observing System (EOS) which can be used to study the microphysics of tropical cyclones world wide, in particular to investigate the presence of mixed phase and the impact of atmospheric aerosols on the hydrometeor structure and rainfall from tropical cyclones.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Simpson, Joanne
(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD United States)
Pierce, H.
(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD United States)
Ritchie, L.
(Naval Postgraduate School Monterey, CA United States)
Liu, T.
(Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA United States)
Brueske, K.
(Wisconsin Univ. Madison, WI United States)
Velden, C.
(Wisconsin Univ. Madison, WI United States)
Halverson, J.
(Maryland Univ. Baltimore County Catonsville, MD United States)
Einaudi, Franco
Date Acquired
August 20, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2001
Subject Category
Meteorology and Climatology
Meeting Information
AMS Conference on Satellite Meteorology(Madison, WI)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.