17.3 The Aggregation of Convection and Tropical Cyclone Formation

Thursday, 6 August 2015: 4:00 PM
Republic Ballroom AB (Sheraton Boston )
Christopher A. Davis, NCAR, Boulder, CO

The upscale aggregation of convection is used to understand the emergence of rotating, coherent mid-tropospheric structures and the subsequent process of tropical cyclone formation. The CM1 model is integrated on an f-plane with uniform SST and prescribed uniform background flow. Deep convection is maintained by surface fluxes from an ocean with uniform surface temperature. Convection begins to organize simultaneously into moist and dry mid-tropospheric patches after 10 days. After 20 days the patches begin to rotate on relatively small scales. Moist cyclonic vortices merge, eventually forming a single dominant vortex that subsequently forms a tropical cyclone on a realistic time scale of about 5 days. Radiation that interacts with clouds and water vapor aids in forming coherent rotating structures.

Using the path to genesis provided by the aggregated solution, the relationship between thermodynamic changes within the vortex and changes in the character of convection prior to genesis is explored. Consistent with previous studies, the approach to saturation within the mid-tropospheric vortex accelerates the genesis process. A novel result is that, while updrafts do not intensify prior to genesis, downdrafts do. Stronger downdrafts produce cold pools that maximize their negative buoyancy about one day prior to genesis. Shear-cold-pool dynamics promote organization of lower-tropospheric updrafts that spins up the surface vortex. It is inferred that the observed inconsistency between convective intensity and thermodynamic stabilization prior to genesis results from sampling limitations of the observations wherein the important cold pool gradients are unresolved.

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