3.2 The Structure and Dynamics of Coherent Vortices in the Eyewall Boundary Layer of Tropical Cyclones

Tuesday, 6 August 2013: 2:00 PM
Multnomah (DoubleTree by Hilton Portland)
Daniel P. Stern, NCAR, Boulder, CO; and G. H. Bryan

The boundary layer within the eyewall of intense tropical cyclones has been shown to be both highly turbulent and to contain coherent small-scale (of order 1 km) vortices. Additionally, dropsonde observations have indicated that extreme updrafts of 10-25 m/s can occur in the lowest 2 km, sometimes as low as a few hundred meters above the sea surface. These updrafts are often collocated with or found very nearby to local extrema in horizontal wind speed, which sometimes exceed 100 m/s. A previous numerical study of Hurricane Isabel investigated updrafts that appeared to be analogous to those seen in the dropsondes, and it was shown that these updrafts were associated with coherent vortices, were confined to low-levels, and were not forced by buoyancy. A significant limitation of this previous work is that the vortices/updrafts were only marginally resolved.

Here, the CM1 model is used to simulate intense tropical cyclones in an idealized framework, with horizontal grid spacing as fine as 62 meters. At this grid spacing, the scales of the vortices (believed to be ~500-1500 m) are well resolved. The frequency and spatial distribution of these extreme updrafts are investigated. By tracking individual features in space and time, the characteristic structure and evolution is examined. It is currently unknown whether dropsonde observations represent quasi-vertical profiles through the features, or if instead the sondes are horizontally advected through the features. Simulated dropsonde trajectories are used to answer this question, and to aid in the interpretation of the observed kinematic and thermodynamic profiles. To gain insight into the origin and dynamics of the updrafts/vortices, vorticity budgets are examined. Finally, simulations where the grid spacing is systematically varied from 1 km to 62 m are used to determine the sensitivity of vertical velocity and its probability distribution to resolution.

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