Impact of storm-induced cooling of sea surface temperature on large turbulent eddies and vertical turbulent transport in the atmospheric boundary layer of Hurricane Isaac

Ping Zhu, Yuting Wang, Shuyi S Chen, Milan Curcic, Cen Gao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations


Roll vortices in the atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) are important to oil operation and oil spill transport. This study investigates the impact of storm-induced sea surface temperature (SST) cooling on the roll vortices generated by the convective and dynamic instability in the ABL of Hurricane Isaac (2012) and the roll induced transport using hindcasting large eddy simulations (LESs) configured from the multiply nested Weather Research & Forecasting model. Two experiments are performed: One forced by the Unified Wave INterface-Coupled Model and the other with the SST replaced by the NCEP FNL analysis that does not include the storm-induced SST cooling. The simulations show that the roll vortices are the prevalent eddy circulations in the ABL of Isaac. The storm-induced SST cooling causes the ABL stability falls in a range that satisfies the empirical criterion of roll generation by dynamic instability, whereas the ABL stability without considering the storm-induced SST cooling meets the criterion of roll generation by convective instability. The ABL roll is skewed and the increase of convective instability enhances the skewness. Large convective instability leads to large vertical transport of heat and moisture; whereas the dominant dynamic instability results in large turbulent kinetic energy but relatively weak heat and moisture transport. This study suggests that failure to consider roll vortices or incorrect initiation of dynamic and convective instability of rolls in simulations may substantially affect the transport of momentum, energy, and pollutants in the ABL and the dispersion/advection of oil spill fume at the ocean surface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)861-876
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research C: Oceans
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016



  • atmospheric boundary layer
  • hurricane
  • roll vortices
  • sea surface temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Oceanography

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