Effects of vertical wind shear and storm motion on tropical cyclone rainfall asymmetries deduced from TRMM

Shuyi S. Chen, John A. Knaff, Frank D. Marks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

230 Scopus citations


Vertical wind shear and storm motion are two of the most important factors contributing to rainfall asymmetries in tropical cyclones (TCs). Global TC rainfall structure, in terms of azimuthal distribution and asymmetries relative to storm motion, has been previously described using the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission Microwave Imager rainfall estimates. The mean TC rainfall distribution and the wavenumber-1 asymmetry vary with storm intensity and geographical location among the six oceanic basins. This study uses a similar approach to investigate the relationship between the structure of TC rainfall and the environmental flow by computing the rainfall asymmetry relative to the vertical wind shear. The environmental vertical wind shear is defined as the difference between the mean wind vectors of the 200- and 850-hPa levels over an outer region extending from the radius of 200-800 km around the storm center. The wave-number-1 maximum rainfall asymmetry is downshear left (right) in the Northern (Southern) Hemisphere. The rainfall asymmetry decreases (increases) with storm intensity (shear strength). The rainfall asymmetry maximum is predominantly downshear left for shear values > 7.5 m s-1. Large asymmetries are usually observed away from the TC centers. As TC intensity increases, the asymmetry maximum shifts upwind to the left. The analysis is further extended to examine the storm motion and the vertical wind shear and their collective effects on TC rainfall asymmetries. It is found that the vertical wind shear is a dominant factor for the rainfall asymmetry when shear is >5 m s-1. The storm motion-relative rainfall asymmetry in the outer rainband region is comparable to that of shear relative when the shear is <5 m s-1, suggesting that TC translation speed becomes an important factor in the low shear environment. The overall TC rainfall asymmetry depends on the juxtaposition and relative magnitude of the storm motion and environmental shear vectors in all oceanic basins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3190-3208
Number of pages19
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of vertical wind shear and storm motion on tropical cyclone rainfall asymmetries deduced from TRMM'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this