Subsidence warming as an underappreciated ingredient in tropical cyclogenesis. part I: Aircraft observations

Brandon W. Kerns, Shuyi S Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The development of a compact warm core extending from the mid-upper levels to the lower troposphere and related surface pressure falls leading to tropical cyclogenesis (TC genesis) is not well understood. This study documents the evolution of the three-dimensional thermal structure during the early developing stages of Typhoons Fanapi and Megi using aircraft dropsonde observations from the Impact of Typhoons on the Ocean in the Pacific (ITOP) field campaign in 2010. Prior to TC genesis, the precursor disturbances were characterized by warm (cool) anomalies above (below) the melting level (~550 hPa) with small surface pressure perturbations. Onion-shaped skew T-logp profiles, which are a known signature of mesoscale subsidence warming induced by organized mesoscale convective systems (MCSs), are ubiquitous throughout the ITOP aircraft missions from the precursor disturbance to the tropical storm stages. The warming partially erodes the lower-troposphere (850-600 hPa) cool anomalies. This warming results in increased surface pressure falls when superposed with the upper-troposphere warm anomalies associated with the long-lasting MCSs/cloud clusters. Hydrostatic pressure analysis suggests the upper-level warming alone would not result in the initial sea level pressure drop associated with the transformation from a disturbance to a TC. As Fanapi and Megi intensify into strong tropical storms, aircraft flight-level (700 hPa) and dropsonde data reveal that the warm core extends down to 850-600 hPa and has some characteristics of subsidence warming similar to the eyes of mature TCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4237-4260
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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