The impact of dry midlevel air on hurricane intensity in idealized simulations with no mean flow

Scott A. Braun, Jason A. Sippel, David S. Nolan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


This study examines the potential negative influences of dry midlevel air on the development of tropical cyclones (specifically, its role in enhancing cold downdraft activity and suppressing storm development). The Weather Research and Forecasting model is used to construct two sets of idealized simulations of hurricane development in environments with different configurations of dry air. The first set of simulations begins with dry air located north of the vortex center by distances ranging from 0 to 270 km, whereas the second set of simulations begins with dry air completely surrounding the vortex, but with moist envelopes in the vortex core ranging in size from 0 to 150 km in radius. No impact of the dry air is seen for dry layers located more than 270 km north of the initial vortex center (;3 times the initial radius of maximum wind). When the dry air is initially closer to the vortex center, it suppresses convective development where it entrains into the storm circulation, leading to increasingly asymmetric convection and slower storm development. The presence of dry air throughout the domain, including the vortex center, substantially slows storm development. However, the presence of a moist envelope around the vortex center eliminates the deleterious impact on storm intensity. Instead, storm size is significantly reduced. The simulations suggest that dry air slows intensification only when it is located very close to the vortex core at early times. When it does slow storm development, it does so primarily by inducing outward-moving convective asymmetries that temporarily shift latent heating radially outward away from the high-vorticity inner core.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)236-257
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Hurricanes
  • Tropical cyclones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The impact of dry midlevel air on hurricane intensity in idealized simulations with no mean flow'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this