Effect of scale-Aware planetary boundary layer schemes on tropical cyclone intensification and structural changes in the gray zone

Xiaomin Chen, Ming Xue, Bowen Zhou, Juan Fang, Jun A. Zhang, Frank D. Marks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Horizontal grid spacings of numerical weather prediction models are rapidly approaching O(1) km and have become comparable with the dominant length scales of flows in the boundary layer; within such gray-zones, conventional planetary boundary layer (PBL) parameterization schemes start to violate basic design assumptions. Scale-Aware PBL schemes have been developed recently to address the gray-zone issue. By performing WRF simulations of Hurricane Earl (2010) at subkilometer grid spacings, this study investigates the effect of the scale-Aware Shin Hong (SH) scheme on the tropical cyclone (TC) intensification and structural changes in comparison to the non-scale-Aware YSU scheme it is built upon. Results indicate that SH tends to produce a stronger TC with a more compact inner core than YSU. At early stages, scale-Aware coefficients in SHgradually decrease as the diagnosed boundary layer height exceeds the horizontal grid spacing. This scale-Aware effect is most prominent for nonlocal subgrid-scale vertical turbulent fluxes, in the nonprecipitation regions radially outside of a vortex-Tilt-related convective rainband, and from the early stage through the middle of the rapid intensification (RI) phase. Both the scale awareness and different parameterization of the nonlocal turbulent heat flux in SH reduce the parameterized vertical turbulent mixing, which further induces stronger radial inflows and helps retain more water vapor in the boundary layer. The resulting stronger moisture convergence and diabatic heating near the TC center account for a faster inner-core contraction before RI onset and higher intensification rates during the RI period. Potential issues of applying these two PBL schemes in TC simulations and suggestions for improvements are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2079-2095
Number of pages17
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Boundary layer
  • Hurricanes/typhoons
  • Model evaluation/performance
  • Numerical analysis/modeling
  • Turbulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Effect of scale-Aware planetary boundary layer schemes on tropical cyclone intensification and structural changes in the gray zone'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this