Articles | Volume 13, issue 4
Research article
22 Feb 2013
Research article |  | 22 Feb 2013

The importance of low-deformation vorticity in tropical cyclone formation

K. J. Tory, R. A. Dare, N. E. Davidson, J. L. McBride, and S. S. Chand

Abstract. Studies of tropical cyclone (TC) formation from tropical waves have shown that TC formation requires a wave-relative quasi-closed circulation: the "marsupial pouch" concept. This results in a layerwise nearly contained region of atmosphere in which the modification of moisture, temperature and vorticity profiles by convective and boundary layer processes occurs undisturbed. The pouch concept is further developed in this paper. TCs develop near the centre of the pouch where the flow is in near solid body rotation. A reference-frame independent parameter is introduced that effectively measures the level of solid-body rotation in the lower troposphere. The parameter is the product of a normalized Okubo-Weiss parameter and absolute vorticity (OWZ).

Using 20 yr of ERA-interim reanalysis data and the IBTrACS global TC database, it is shown 95% of TCs including, but not limited to, those forming in tropical waves are associated with enhanced levels of OWZ on both the 850 and 500 hPa pressure levels at the time of TC declaration, while 90% show enhanced OWZ for at least 24 h prior to declaration. This result prompts the question of whether the pouch concept extends beyond wave-type formation to all TC formations world-wide.

Combining the OWZ with a low vertical shear requirement and lower troposphere relative humidity thresholds, an imminent genesis parameter is defined. The parameter includes only relatively large-scale fluid properties that are resolved by coarse grid model data (>150 km), which means it can be used as a TC detector for climate model applications. It is also useful as a cyclogenesis diagnostic in higher resolution models such as real-time global forecast models.

Final-revised paper