Characterizing the Energetics of Vortex-Scale and Sub-Vortex-Scale Asymmetries during Tropical Cyclone Rapid Intensity Changes
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Characterizing the Energetics of Vortex-Scale and Sub-Vortex-Scale Asymmetries during Tropical Cyclone Rapid Intensity Changes
  • Published Date:

    2020

  • Source:
    J. Atmos. Sci. (2020) 77 (1): 315–336
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  • Description:
    Our collective understanding of azimuthally asymmetric features within the coherent structure of a tropical cyclone (TC) continues to improve with the availability of more detailed observations and high-resolution model outputs. However, a precise understanding of how these asymmetries impact TC intensity changes is lacking. Prior attempts at investigating the asymmetric impacts follow a mean–eddy partitioning that condenses the effect of all the asymmetries into one term and fails to highlight the differences in the role of asymmetries at different scales. In this study, we present a novel energetics-based approach to analyze the asymmetric impacts at multiple length scales during periods of rapid intensity changes. Using model outputs of TCs under low and high shear, we compute the different energy pathways that enhance/suppress the growth of multiscale asymmetries in the wavenumber (WN) domain. We then compare and contrast the energetics of the mean-flow field (WN 0) with that of the persistent, coherent vortex-scale asymmetric structures (WNs 1 and 2) and the more local, transient, sub-vortex-scale asymmetries (WNs ≥ 3). We find in our case studies that the dominant mechanisms of growth/decay of the asymmetries are the baroclinic conversion from available potential to kinetic energy at individual scales of asymmetries and the transactions of kinetic energy between the asymmetries of various length scales, rather than the barotropic mean–eddy transactions as is typically assumed. Our case study analysis further shows that the growth/decay of asymmetries is largely independent of the mean. Certain aspects of eddy energetics can potentially serve as early-warning indicators of TC rapid intensity changes.
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