The effect of vertical shear orientation on tropical cyclogenesis

Eric D. Rappin, David S. Nolan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


The effect of the relative orientation of the vertical wind shear to the surface wind on tropical cyclogenesis is explored in environments of radiative-convective equilibrium (RCE) through numerical simulation. This study serves as a companion paper to an earlier study on the thermodynamics of genesis in RCE. It is found, when the mean surface wind and shear are aligned, a negative surface wind anomaly arises from the superposition of the mean and vortex surface flows left of the shear vector. The resulting weak surface enthalpy fluxes and up-shear quasi-balanced subsidence leads to dry air being located cyclonically down-wind of the down-shear convective anomaly. Thus convection is inhibited from propagating cyclonically around the core leading to a large down-shear vortex tilt. Conversely, in a counter-aligned orientation, the negative surface wind anomaly and driest air is found right of the shear vector. Hence the driest air rotates into the down-shear flank where it moistened by shear-organized convection. Furthermore, the boundary layer is relatively moist left of shear due to the positive surface wind anomaly, therefore promoting the cyclonic propagation from down-shear and constraining the magnitude of the vortex tilt. Genesis is intimately tied to the magnitude of the tilt and is found to occur once the mid-level vortex has precessed into the up-shear flank. For smaller values of maximum tilt, vortex precession is comparatively rapid, aided by "showerhead" moistening provided by the up-shear advection of frozen condensate aloft. With the up-shear flank pre-moistened, rapid precession of the mid-level vortex, at smaller radii, leads to near saturation on the mesoscale and the onset of rapid intensification. When the magnitude of the tilt is quite large, precession is much slower and the showerhead effect is significantly reduced until just prior to the emergence of the mid-level vortex in the up-shear flank.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1035-1054
Number of pages20
JournalQuarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society
Issue number665
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • Genesis
  • Radiative-convective equilibrium
  • Tropical cyclones
  • Wind shear

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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