27th Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology


High-resolution vertical profiling of ocean velocity and water properties under Hurricane Frances in September 2004

Thomas B. Sanford, University of Washington, Seattle, WA; and E. A. D'Asaro, J. B. Girton, J. F. Price, and D. C. Webb

In ONR's CBLAST Hurricane research program observations were made of the upper ocean's response to Hurricane Frances. Three EM-APEX floats (velocity sensing versions of Webb Research APEX floats) and two Lagrangian floats were deployed north of Hispaniola from a C-130 aircraft ahead of Hurricane Frances in September 2004. The EM-APEX floats measured T, S and V over the upper 500 m starting about a day before the storm's arrival. The Lagrangian floats measured temperature and salinity while following the three-dimensional boundary layer turbulence in the upper 40 m. One EM-APEX float was directly under the track of the storm's eye, another EM-APEX and two Lagrangian floats went in about 50 km to the right of the track (where the surface winds are strongest) and the third float was about 100 km to the right. The EM-APEX floats profiled for 10 hours from the surface to 200 m, then continued profiling between 35 and 200 m with excursions to 500 m every half inertial period. After 5 days, the EM-APEX floats surfaced and transmitted the accumulated processed observations, then the floats profiled to 500 m every half inertial period until recovered early in October aided by GPS and Iridium.

The float array sampled in unprecedented detail the upper-ocean turbulence, momentum, and salt and heat changes in response to the hurricane. The buildup of surface gravity waves in advance of the storm was also observed in the velocity profiles, with significant wave heights of up to 11 m. Rapid acceleration of inertial currents in the surface mixing layer (SML) to over 1 m/s stimulated vertical mixing by shear instability at the SML base, as indicated by low Richardson numbers and SML deepening from about 40 m to 120 m under the strongest wind forcing. Surface cooling of about 2.5 C was primarily due to the SML deepening and entrainment of colder water, with a small contribution from surface heat flux. Intense inertial pumping was observed under the eye, with vertical excursions of 50 m or more. Comparison with a 3-D numerical model of the ocean response to Frances' winds reveals encouraging similarities in SML deepening and surface cooling as well as significant differences in maximum currents and heat content changes. These differences highlight the sensitivity of the ocean's response to both the specification of the wind field and the parameterization of stress under high wind speeds.

wrf recording  Recorded presentation

Session 8C, Special Session: CBLAST LOW II and CBLAST HURRICANE I
Wednesday, 26 April 2006, 10:30 AM-12:00 PM, Regency Grand BR 1-3

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