The rapid intensification of Hurricane Michael (2018): Storm structure and the relationship to environmental and air–sea interactions

Joshua B. Wadler, Jun A. Zhang, Robert F. Rogers, Benjamin Jaimes, Lynn K. Shay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The spatial and temporal variation in multiscale structures during the rapid intensification of Hurricane Michael (2018) are explored using a coupled atmospheric–oceanic dataset obtained from NOAA WP-3D and G-IV aircraft missions. During Michael’s early life cycle, the importance of ocean structure is studied to explore how the storm intensified despite experiencing moderate vertical shear. Michael maintained a fairly symmetric precipitation distribution and resisted lateral mixing of dry environmental air into the circulation upshear. The storm also interacted with an oceanic eddy field leading to cross-storm sea surface temperature (SST) gradients of;2.58C. This led to the highest enthalpy fluxes occurring left of shear, favoring the sustainment of updrafts into the upshear quadrants and a quick recovery from low-entropy downdraft air. Later in the life cycle, Michael interacted with more uniform and higher SSTs that were greater than 288C, while vertical shear imposed asymmetries in Michael’s secondary circulation and distribution of entropy. Midlevel (;4–8 km) outflow downshear, a feature characteristic of hurricanes in shear, transported high-entropy air from the eyewall region outward. This outflow created a cap that reduced entrainment across the boundary layer top, protecting it from dry midtropospheric air out to large radii (i.e., .100 km), and allowing for rapid energy increases from air–sea enthalpy fluxes. Upshear, low-level (;0.5–2 km) outflow transported high-entropy air outward, which aided boundary layer recovery from low-entropy downdraft air. This study underscores the importance of simultaneously measuring atmospheric and oceanographic parameters to understand tropical cyclone structure during rapid intensification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-267
Number of pages23
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • Air-sea interaction
  • Dynamics
  • Hurricanes/typhoons
  • Storm environments
  • Thermodynamics
  • Tropical cyclones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The rapid intensification of Hurricane Michael (2018): Storm structure and the relationship to environmental and air–sea interactions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this