The impact of the diurnal insolation cycle on the tropical cyclone heat engine

Tuesday, 19 April 2016
Plaza Grand Ballroom (The Condado Hilton Plaza)
Morgan E. O'Neill, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel; and D. Perez-Betancourt and A. A. Wing

A hurricane, or tropical cyclone, is understood as a heat engine that moves heat from the warm sea surface to the cold tropopause. The efficiency of this engine depends in part on the strength and duration of solar heating. Over land, peak rainfall associated with individual thunderstorms occurs in the late afternoon. Over ocean, with its markedly higher surface heat capacity, deep convection responds more to radiative cooling than daytime surface heating. However, the role of daily varying solar forcing on the dynamics of tropical cyclones is poorly understood. Recently, Dunion et al. (2014) reported significant, repeating diurnal behavior propagating outward from tropical cyclone centers, using infrared imagery from nine years of North Atlantic tropical cyclones. We study the impact of the diurnal cycle on tropical cyclones using a high resolution 3D numerical model, the System for Atmospheric Modeling (Khairoutdinov and Randall 2003). Simulations are run with and without variable sunlight. We are able to reproduce the observational finding of Dunion et al. (2014), and further identify a diurnally-varying residual circulation in the tropical cyclone at midlevels. The impact of the diurnal cycle on the equilibrium dynamics of tropical cyclones is also discussed.
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