Assessing the influence of convective downdrafts and surface enthalpy fluxes on tropical cyclone intensity change in moderate vertical wind shear

Leon T. Nguyen, Robert Rogers, Jonathan Zawislak, Jun A. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

The thermodynamic impacts of downdraft-induced cooling/drying and downstream recovery via surface enthalpy fluxes within tropical cyclones (TCs) were investigated using dropsonde observations collected from 1996 to 2017. This study focused on relatively weak TCs (tropical depression, tropical storm, category 1 hurricane) that were subjected to moderate (4.5–11.0 m s-1) levels of environmental vertical wind shear. The dropsonde data were analyzed in a shear-relative framework and binned according to TC intensity change in the 24 h following the dropsonde observation time, allowing for comparison between storms that underwent different intensity changes. Moisture and temperature asymmetries in the lower troposphere yielded a relative maximum in lower-tropospheric conditional instability in the downshear quadrants and a relative minimum in instability in the upshear quadrants, regardless of intensity change. However, the instability increased as the intensification rate increased, particularly in the downshear quadrants. This was due to increased boundary layer moist entropy relative to the temperature profile above the boundary layer. Additionally, significantly larger surface enthalpy fluxes were observed as the intensification rate increased, particularly in the upshear quadrants. These results suggest that in intensifying storms, enhanced surface enthalpy fluxes in the upshear quadrants allow downdraft-modified boundary layer air to recover moisture and heat more effectively as it is advected cyclonically around the storm. By the time the air reaches the downshear quadrants, the lower-tropospheric conditional instability is enhanced, which is speculated to be more favorable for updraft growth and deep convection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3519-3534
Number of pages16
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Volume147
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

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