Factors affecting the evolution of Hurricane Erin (2001) and the distributions of hydrometeors: Role of microphysical processes

Greg M. McFarquhar, Henian Zhang, Gerald Heymsfield, Robbie Hood, Jimy Dudhia, Jeffrey B. Halverson, Frank Marks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fine-resolution simulations of Hurricane Erin are conducted using the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University-NCAR Mesoscale Model (MM5) to investigate roles of thermodynamic, boundary layer, and microphysical processes on Erin's structure and evolution. Choice of boundary layer scheme has the biggest impact on simulations, with the minimum surface pressure (Pmin) averaged over the last 18 (when Erin is relatively mature) varying by over 20 hPa. Over the same period, coefficients used to describe graupel fall speeds (Vg) affect Pmin by up to 7 hPa, almost equivalent to the maximum 9-hPa difference between microphysical parameterization schemes; faster Vg and schemes with more hydrometeor categories generally give lower Pmin. Compared to radar reflectivity factor (Z) observed by the NOAA P-3 lower fuselage radar and the NASA ER-2 Doppler radar (EDOP) in Erin, all simulations overpredict the normalized frequency of occurrence of Z larger than 40 dBZ and underpredict that between 20 and 40 dBZ near the surface; simulations overpredict Z larger than 25 to 30 dBZ and underpredict that between 15 and 25 or 30 dBZ near the melting layer, the upper limit depending on altitude. Brightness temperatures (Tb) computed from modeled fields at 37.1- and 85.5-GHz channels that respond to scattering by graupel-size ice show enhanced scattering, mainly due to graupel, compared to observations. Simulated graupel mixing ratios are about 10 times larger than values observed in other hurricanes. For the control run at 6.5 km averaged over the last 18 simulated hours, Doppler velocities computed from modeled fields (Vdop) greater than 5 m s-1 make up 12% of Erin's simulated area for the base simulation but less than 2% of the observed area. In the eyewall, 5% of model updrafts above 9 km are stronger than 10 m s-1, whereas statistics from other hurricanes show that 5% of updrafts are stronger than only 5 m s-1. Variations in distributions of Z, vertical motion, and graupel mixing ratios between schemes are not sufficient to explain systematic offsets between observations and models. A new iterative condensation scheme, used with the Reisner mixed-phase microphysics scheme, limits unphysical increases of equivalent potential temperature associated with many condensation schemes and reduces the frequency of Z larger than 50 dBZ, but has minimal effect on Z below 50 dBZ, which represent 95% of the modeled hurricane rain area. However, the new scheme changes the Erin simulations in that 95% of the updrafts are weaker than 5 m s-1 and Pmin is up to 12 hPa higher over the last 18 simulated hours.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-150
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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