A Thermodynamic Pathway Leading to Rapid Intensification of Tropical Cyclones in Shear

Xiaomin Chen, Jun A. Zhang, Frank D. Marks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Understanding physical processes leading to rapid intensification (RI) of tropical cyclones (TCs) under environmental vertical wind shear is key to improving TC intensity forecasts. This study analyzes the thermodynamic processes that help saturate the TC inner core before RI onset using a column-integrated moist static energy (MSE) framework. Results indicate that the nearly saturated inner core in the lower-middle troposphere is achieved by an increase in the column-integrated MSE, as column water vapor accumulates while the mean column temperature cools. The sign of the column-integrated MSE tendency depends on the competition between surface enthalpy fluxes, radiation, and vertical wind shear-induced ventilation effect. The reduction of ventilation above the boundary layer due to vertical alignment is crucial to accumulate the energy within the inner core region. A comparison of the RI simulation with a null simulation further highlights the impact of vortex structure on the thermodynamic state adjustment and TC intensification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9241-9251
Number of pages11
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 16 2019


  • hurricanes
  • moist static energy
  • numerical modeling
  • rapid intensification
  • tropical cyclones
  • vertical wind shear

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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