The effects of Mesoscale SST gradients on Tropical Cyclone Development
Previous studies have shown that SST gradients can significantly impact the overlying ocean surface winds leading to areas of enhanced convergence/divergence and Vorticity (Chelton et al. 2004; O'Neill et al. 2005, 2010). The magnitude of this effect approximately increases as the surface wind increases. Work by Minobe et al. (2008) concluded that a sharp SST Gradient, over the Gulf Stream for instance, could produce enough surface wind convergence to maintain a band of precipitation along the ocean front. An analysis of satellite derived SST data over the Atlantic show that it is not uncommon for SST gradients of 2 Co/200km or more to exist in the immediate environment of a Tropical System. The authors seek to understand whether the conclusions made in previous works can be applied in the case of a developing Tropical System and whether SST Gradients exist in the Tropical Atlantic to a degree that would influence the cyclogenesis process.
To address this, the effects of SST gradients on tropical cyclogenesis processes are investigated using model simulations of the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF). WRF is used to simulate Hurricane Igor(2010) and run at 2km resolution using NASA OSTIA foundation SST data. In subsequent runs to this control run, the SSTs are modified to give a smaller or larger SST Gradient with the same atmospheric conditions. A specific SST gradient in the area of Igor's track is then analyzed to determine if the gradient caused greater/lesser transport of moisture in the environment of the storm. It is found that the intensity of Igor is sensitive to the different SST gradient setups but that it is not larger than the sensitivity to changes to the WRF physics.