A statistical perspective on wind profiles and vertical wind shear in tropical cyclone environments of the northern hemisphere

Peter M. Finocchio, Sharanya J. Majumdar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


A statistical analysis of tropical cyclone (TC) environmental wind profiles is conducted in order to better understand how vertical wind shear influences TC intensity change. The wind profiles are computed from global atmospheric reanalyses around the best track locations of 7554 TC cases in the Northern Hemisphere tropics. Mean wind profiles within each basin exhibit significant differences in the magnitude and direction of vertical wind shear. Comparisons between TC environments and randomly selected "non-TC" environments highlight the synoptic regimes that support TCs in each basin, which are often characterized by weaker deep-layer shear. Because weaker deep-layer shear may not be the only aspect of the environmental flow that makes a TC environment more favorable for TCs, two new parameters are developed to describe the height and depth of vertical shear. Distributions of these parameters indicate that, in both TC and non-TC environments, vertical shear most frequently occurs in shallow layers and in the upper troposphere. Linear correlations between each shear parameter and TC intensity change show that shallow, upper-level shear is slightly more favorable for TC intensification. But these relationships vary by basin and neither parameter independently explains more than 5% of the variance in TC intensity change between 12 and 120 h. As such, the shear height and depth parameters in this study do not appear to be viable predictors for statistical intensity prediction, though similar measures of midtropospheric vertical wind shear may be more important in particularly challenging intensity forecasts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)361-378
Number of pages18
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017


  • Statistics
  • Tropical cyclones
  • Wind shear

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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