Tropical Cyclone Boundary Layer Rolls in Synthetic Aperture Radar Imagery

Lanqing Huang, Xiaofeng Li, Bin Liu, Jun A. Zhang, Dongliang Shen, Zenghui Zhang, Wenxian Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Marine atmospheric boundary layer (MABL) roll plays an important role in the turbulent exchange of momentum, sensible heat, and moisture throughout MABL of tropical cyclone (TC). Hence, rolls are believed to be closely related to TC's development, intensification, and decay processes. Spaceborne synthetic aperture radar (SAR) provides a unique capability to image the sea surface imprints of quasi-linear streaks induced by the MABL rolls within a TC. In this study, sixteen SAR images, including three images acquired during three major hurricanes: Irma, Jose, and Maria in the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, were utilized to systematically map the distribution and wavelength of MABL rolls under the wide range of TC intensities. The images were acquired by SAR onboard RADARSAT-1/2, ENVISAT, and SENTINEL-1 satellites. Our findings are in agreement with the previous one case study of Hurricane Katrina (2005), showing the roll wavelengths are between 600 and 1,600 m. We also find that there exist roll imprints in eyewall and rainbands, although the boundary layer heights are shallower there. Besides, the spatial distribution of roll wavelengths is asymmetrical. The roll wavelengths are found to be the shortest around the storm center, increase and then decrease with distance from storm center, reaching the peak values in the range of d*2d*, where d* is defined as the physical location to TC centers normalized by the radius of maximum wind. These MABL roll characteristics cannot be derived using conventional aircraft and land-based Doppler radar observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2981-2996
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018


  • boundary layer
  • cyclone
  • synthetic aperture radar

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Oceanography


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