Asymmetric hurricane boundary layer structure from dropsonde composites in relation to the environmental vertical wind shear

Jun A. Zhang, Robert F. Rogers, Paul D. Reasor, Eric W. Uhlhorn, Frank D. Marks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study investigates the asymmetric structure of the hurricane boundary layer in relation to the environmental vertical wind shear in the inner core region. Data from 1878 GPS dropsondes deployed by research aircraft in 19 hurricanes are analyzed in a composite framework. Kinematic structure analyses based on Doppler radar data from 75 flights are compared with the dropsonde composites. Shear-relative quadrantmean composite analyses show that both the kinematic and thermodynamic boundary layer height scales tend to decrease with decreasing radius, consistent with previous axisymmetric analyses. There is still a clear separation between the kinematic and thermodynamic boundary layer heights. Both the thermodynamic mixed layer and height of maximum tangential wind speed are within the inflow layer. The inflow layer depth is found to be deeper in quadrants downshear, with the downshear right (DR) quadrant being the deepest. The mixed layer depth and height of maximum tangential wind speed are alike at the eyewall, but are deeper outside in quadrants left of the shear. The results also suggest that air parcels acquire equivalent potential temperature Θe from surface fluxes as they rotate through the upshear right (UR) quadrant from the upshear left (UL) quadrant. Convection is triggered in the DR quadrant in the presence of asymmetric mesoscale lifting coincident with a maximum in Θe. Energy is then released by latent heating in the downshear left (DL) quadrant. Convective downdrafts bring down cool and dry air to the surface and lower Θe again in the DL and UL quadrants. This cycling process may be directly tied to shear-induced asymmetry of convection in hurricanes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3968-3984
Number of pages17
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Volume141
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

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