skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 10:00 PM ET on Friday, December 8 until 2:00 AM ET on Saturday, December 9 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Title: Understanding Atypical Midlevel Wind Speed Maxima in Hurricane Eyewalls

In tropical cyclones (TCs), the peak wind speed is typically found near the top of the boundary layer (approximately 0.5–1 km). Recently, it was shown that in a few observed TCs, the wind speed within the eyewall can increase with height within the midtroposphere, resulting in a secondary local maximum at 4–5 km. This study presents additional evidence of such an atypical structure, using dropsonde and Doppler radar observations from Hurricane Patricia (2015). Near peak intensity, Patricia exhibited an absolute wind speed maximum at 5–6-km height, along with a weaker boundary layer maximum. Idealized simulations and a diagnostic boundary layer model are used to investigate the dynamics that result in these atypical wind profiles, which only occur in TCs that are very intense (surface wind speed > 50 m s−1) and/or very small (radius of maximum winds < 20 km). The existence of multiple maxima in wind speed is a consequence of an inertial oscillation that is driven ultimately by surface friction. The vertical oscillation in the radial velocity results in a series of unbalanced tangential wind jets, whose magnitude and structure can manifest as a midlevel wind speed maximum. The wavelength of the inertial oscillation increases with vertical mixing length lin a turbulence parameterization, and no midlevel wind speed maximum occurs when lis large. Consistent with theory, the wavelength in the simulations scales with (2 K/ I)1/2, where K is the (vertical) turbulent diffusivity, and I2is the inertial stability. This scaling is used to explain why only small and/or strong TCs exhibit midlevel wind speed maxima.

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
American Meteorological Society
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 1531-1557
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract This study investigates the relationship between the azimuthally averaged kinematic structure of the tropical cyclone boundary layer (TCBL) and storm intensity, intensity change, and vortex structure above the BL. These relationships are explored using composites of airborne Doppler radar vertical profiles, which have a higher vertical resolution than typically used three-dimensional analyses and, therefore, better capture TCBL structure. Results show that the BL height, defined by the depth of the inflow layer, is greater in weak storms than in strong storms. The inflow layer outside the radius of maximum tangential wind speed (RMW) is deeper in intensifying storms than in nonintensifying storms at an early stage. The peak BL convergence inside the RMW is larger in intensifying storms than in nonintensifying storms. Updrafts originating from the TCBL are concentrated near the RMW for intensifying TCs, while updrafts span a large radial range outside the RMW for nonintensifying TCs. In terms of vortex structure above the BL, storms with a quickly decaying radial profile of tangential wind outside the RMW (“narrow” vortices) tend to have a deeper inflow layer outside the RMW, stronger inflow near the RMW, deeper and more concentrated strong updrafts close to the RMW, and weaker inflow in the outer core region than those with a slowly decaying tangential wind profile (“broad” vortices). The narrow TCs also tend to intensify faster than broad TCs, suggesting that a key relationship exists among vortex shape, the BL kinematic structure, and TC intensity change. This relationship is further explored by comparisons of absolute angular momentum budget terms for each vortex shape. 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    We present an analysis of helium ion (He+) fraction in an altitude range from about 400 km to around 700 km and its relationship to the ion temperature (Ti) and the vertical ion drift under solar maximum conditions. The data were obtained from the Arecibo incoherent scatter radar during 27 September to 1 October 2014 and 16–20 December 2014. The large He+fraction (>10%) lasts 15 hr per day during the winter solstice, which is 3 times larger than during fall equinox. This difference is caused by the more persistent downward ion drift in the winter. The incremental He+fraction and incrementalTiare well anticorrelated, and the anticorrelation is more prominent during the daytime. These characteristics are associated with whether O+and He+are in diffusive equilibrium. During nighttime, we show that the vertical ion flow is downward causing the He+layer peak altitude to move to an altitude of 500 km from above 650 km. According to our analysis, He+fraction has to be larger than two thirds for diffusive equilibrium to occur above the He+peak height. Therefore, above the He+peak altitude, O+and He+cannot be in diffusive equilibrium with He+being the minor species. The vertical ion flow plays an important role in determining the diurnal variation and seasonal difference of He+distribution and whether He+is in a diffusive equilibrium with O+.

    more » « less
  3. null (Ed.)
    Abstract The existence of supergradient wind in the interior of the boundary layer is a distinct feature of a tropical cyclone (TC). Although the vertical advection is shown to enhance supergradient wind in TC boundary layer (TCBL), how and to what extent the strength and structure of supergradient wind are modulated by vertical advection are not well understood. In this study, both a TCBL model and an axisymmetric full-physics model are used to quantify the contribution of vertical advection process to the strength and vertical structure of supergradient wind in TCBL. Results from the TCBL model show that the removal of vertical advection of radial wind reduces both the strength and height of supergradient wind by slightly more than 50%. The removal of vertical advection of agradient wind reduces the height of the supergradient wind core by ~30% but increases the strength of supergradient wind by ~10%. Results from the full-physics model show that the removal of vertical advection of radial wind or agradient wind reduces both the strength and height of supergradient wind but the removal of that of radial wind produces a more substantial reduction (52%) than the removal of that of agradient wind (35%). However, both the intensification rate and final intensity of the simulated TCs in terms of maximum 10-m wind speed show little differences in experiments with and without the vertical advection of radial or agradient wind, suggesting that supergradient wind contributes little to either the intensification rate or the steady-state intensity of the simulated TC. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract. The tropical tropopause layer (TTL) is a sea of vertical motions. Convectively generated gravity waves create vertical winds on scales of a few to thousands of kilometers as they propagate in a stable atmosphere. Turbulence from gravity wave breaking, radiatively driven convection, and Kelvin–Helmholtz instabilities stirs up the TTL on the kilometer scale. TTL cirrus clouds, which moderate the water vapor concentration in the TTL and stratosphere, form in the cold phases of large-scale (> 100 km) wave activity. It has been proposed in several modeling studies that small-scale (< 100 km) vertical motions control the ice crystal number concentration and the dehydration efficiency of TTL cirrus clouds. Here, we present the first observational evidence for this. High-rate vertical winds measured by aircraft are a valuable and underutilized tool for constraining small-scale TTL vertical wind variability, examining its impacts on TTL cirrus clouds, and evaluating atmospheric models. We use 20 Hz data from five National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) campaigns to quantify small-scale vertical wind variability in the TTL and to see how it varies with ice water content, distance from deep convective cores, and height in the TTL. We find that 1 Hz vertical winds are well represented by a normal distribution, with a standard deviation of 0.2–0.4 m s−1. Consistent with a previous observational study that analyzed two out of the five aircraft campaigns that we analyze here, we find that turbulence is enhanced over the tropical west Pacific and within 100 km of convection and is most common in the lower TTL (14–15.5 km), closer to deep convection, and in the upper TTL (15.5–17 km), further from deep convection. An algorithm to classify turbulence and long-wavelength (5 km < λ < 100 km) and short-wavelength (λ < 5 km) gravity wave activity during level flight legs is applied to data from the Airborne Tropical TRopopause EXperiment (ATTREX). The most commonly sampled conditions are (1) a quiescent atmosphere with negligible small-scale vertical wind variability, (2) long-wavelength gravity wave activity (LW GWA), and (3) LW GWA with turbulence. Turbulence rarely occurs in the absence of gravity wave activity. Cirrus clouds with ice crystal number concentrations exceeding 20 L−1 and ice water content exceeding 1 mg m−3 are rare in a quiescent atmosphere but about 20 times more likely when there is gravity wave activity and 50 times more likely when there is also turbulence, confirming the results of the aforementioned modeling studies. Our observational analysis shows that small-scale gravity waves strongly influence the ice crystal number concentration and ice water content within TTL cirrus clouds. Global storm-resolving models have recently been run with horizontal grid spacing between 1 and 10 km, which is sufficient to resolve some small-scale gravity wave activity. We evaluate simulated vertical wind spectra (10–100 km) from four global storm-resolving simulations that have horizontal grid spacing of 3–5 km with aircraft observations from ATTREX. We find that all four models have too little resolved vertical wind at horizontal wavelengths between 10 and 100 km and thus too little small-scale gravity wave activity, although the bias is much less pronounced in global SAM than in the other models. We expect that deficient small-scale gravity wave activity significantly limits the realism of simulated ice microphysics in these models and that improved representation requires moving to finer horizontal and vertical grid spacing. 
    more » « less
  5. This study explores the spatial and temporal changes in tropical cyclone (TC) thermodynamic and dynamic structures before, near, and during rapid intensification (RI) under different vertical wind shear conditions through four sets of convection-permitting ensemble simulations. A composite analysis of TC structural evolution is performed by matching the RI onset time of each member. Without background flow, the axisymmetric TC undergoes a gradual strengthening of the inner-core vorticity and warm core throughout the simulation. In the presence of moderate environmental shear (5–6 m s−1), both the location and magnitude of the asymmetries in boundary layer radial flow, relative humidity, and vertical motion evolve with the tilt vector throughout the simulation. A budget analysis indicates that tilting is crucial to maintaining the midlevel vortex while stretching and vertical advection are responsible for the upper-level vorticity generation before RI when strong asymmetries arise. Two warm anomalies are observed before the RI onset when the vortex column is tilted. When approaching the RI onset, these two warm anomalies gradually merge into one. Overall, the most symmetric vortex structure is found near the RI onset. Moderately sheared TCs experience an adjustment period from a highly asymmetric structure with updrafts concentrated at the down-tilt side before RI to a more axisymmetric structure during RI as the eyewall updrafts develop. This adjustment period near the RI onset, however, is found to be the least active period for deep convection. TC development under a smaller environmental shear (2.5 m s−1) condition displays an intermediate evolution between ensemble experiments with no background flow and with moderate shear (5–6 m s−1).

    more » « less