Articles | Volume 10, issue 22
18 Nov 2010
 | 18 Nov 2010

Coarse, intermediate and high resolution numerical simulations of the transition of a tropical wave critical layer to a tropical storm

M. T. Montgomery, Z. Wang, and T. J. Dunkerton

Abstract. Recent work has hypothesized that tropical cyclones in the deep Atlantic and eastern Pacific basins develop from within the cyclonic Kelvin cat's eye of a tropical easterly wave critical layer located equatorward of the easterly jet axis. The cyclonic critical layer is thought to be important to tropical cyclogenesis because its cat's eye provides (i) a region of cyclonic vorticity and weak deformation by the resolved flow, (ii) containment of moisture entrained by the developing flow and/or lofted by deep convection therein, (iii) confinement of mesoscale vortex aggregation, (iv) a predominantly convective type of heating profile, and (v) maintenance or enhancement of the parent wave until the developing proto-vortex becomes a self-sustaining entity and emerges from the wave as a tropical depression. This genesis sequence and the overarching framework for describing how such hybrid wave-vortex structures become tropical depressions/storms is likened to the development of a marsupial infant in its mother's pouch, and for this reason has been dubbed the "marsupial paradigm".

Here we conduct the first multi-scale test of the marsupial paradigm in an idealized setting by revisiting the Kurihara and Tuleya problem examining the transformation of an easterly wave-like disturbance into a tropical storm vortex using the WRF model. An analysis of the evolving winds, equivalent potential temperature, and relative vertical vorticity is presented from coarse (28 km), intermediate (9 km) and high resolution (3.1 km) simulations. The results are found to support key elements of the marsupial paradigm by demonstrating the existence of a rotationally dominant region with minimal strain/shear deformation near the center of the critical layer pouch that contains strong cyclonic vorticity and high saturation fraction. This localized region within the pouch serves as the "attractor" for an upscale "bottom up" development process while the wave pouch and proto-vortex move together.

Implications of these findings are discussed in relation to an upcoming field experiment for the most active period of the Atlantic hurricane season in 2010 that is to be conducted collaboratively between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Aeronautics and Space Adminstration (NASA).

Final-revised paper