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A case study of Hurricane Felix (2007) rapid intensification

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Monday, 24 January 2011
A case study of Hurricane Felix (2007) rapid intensification
Ian C. Colon-Pagan, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA; and C. Davis and G. Holland

The forecasting of tropical cyclones (TC) rapid intensification (RI) is one of the most challenging problems that the operational community experiences. Research advances leading to improvements in predicting this phenomenon would help government agencies make decisions that could reduce the impact on communities that are so often affected by these weather-related events. It has been proposed that TC RI is associated to various factors, including high sea-surface temperatures, weak vertical wind shear, and the ratio of inertial to static stability, which improves the conversion of diabatic heating into circulation. While a cyclone develops, the size of the region of high inertial stability (IS) decreases whereas the magnitude of IS increases. However, it's unknown whether this is a favorable condition or a result of RI occurrences. The purpose of this research, therefore, is to determine if the IS follows, leads or changes in sync with the intensity change by studying Hurricane Felix (2007) RI phase. Results show a trend of increasing IS before the RI stage, followed by an expansion of the region of high IS. This episode is eventually followed by a decrease in both the intensity and region of positive IS, while the maximum wind speed intensity of the TC diminished. Therefore, we propose that monitoring the IS may provide a forecast tool to determine RI periods. Other parameters, such as static stability, tangential wind, and water vapor mixing ratio helped identify other features of the storm, such as circulation and eyewall formation.