Precipitation properties observed during tropical cyclone intensity change

George R. Alvey, Jonathan Zawislak, Edward Zipser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Using a 15-yr (1998-2012) multiplatform dataset of passive microwave satellite data [tropical cyclone-passive microwave (TC-PMW)] for Atlantic and east Pacific storms, this study examines the relative importance of various precipitation properties, specifically convective intensity, symmetry, and area, to the spectrum of intensity changes observed in tropical cyclones. Analyses are presented not only spatially in shear-relative quadrants around the center, but also every 6 h during a 42-h period encompassing 18 h prior to onset of intensification to 24 h after. Compared to those with slower intensification rates, storms with higher intensification rates (including rapid intensification) have more symmetric distributions of precipitation prior to onset of intensification, as well as a greater overall areal coverage of precipitation. The rate of symmetrization prior to, and during, intensification increases with increasing intensity change as rapidly intensifying storms are more symmetric than slowly intensifying storms. While results also clearly show important contributions from strong convection, it is concluded that intensification is more closely related to the evolution of the areal, radial, and symmetric distribution of precipitation that is not necessarily intense.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4476-4492
Number of pages17
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Atm/ocean structure/phenomena
  • Forecasting
  • Geographic location/entity
  • Microwave observations
  • North Pacific Ocean
  • Observational techniques and algorithms
  • Satellite observations
  • Short-range prediction
  • Tropical cyclones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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