Passive microwave quantification of tropical cyclone inner-core cloud populations relative to subsequent intensity change

Daniel S. Harnos, Stephen W. Nesbitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Characteristics of over 15 000 tropical cyclone (TC) inner cores are evaluated coincidentally using 37- and 85-GHz passive microwave data to quantify the relative prevalence of cold clouds (i.e., deep convection and stratiform clouds) versus predominantly warm clouds (i.e., shallow cumuli and cumulus congestus). Results indicate greater presence of combined liquid and frozen hydrometeors associated with cold clouds within the atmospheric column for TCs undergoing subsequent rapid intensification (RI) or intensification. RI episodes compared to the full intensity change distribution exhibit approximately an order of magnitude increase for inner-core cold cloud frequency relative to warm cloud presence. Incorporation of an objective ring detection algorithm shows the robust presence of rings associated with hydrometeors for 85-GHz polarization corrected temperatures (P85) and 37-GHz vertically polarized brightness temperatures (V37) for differentiating RI with significance levels ≥ 99.99%, while 37-GHz false color rings of a combined cyan and pink appearance surrounding a region that is not cyan or pink lack statistical significance for discriminating RI against lesser intensification. Rings of depressed P85 and enhanced V37 tied to RI suggest the combined presence of liquid and frozen hydrometeors within the atmospheric column, indicative of cold clouds. The V37 rings also exhibit preferences for those with collocated more widespread P85 ice scattering signatures to be more commonly associated with RI and general intensification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4461-4482
Number of pages22
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2016


  • Convection
  • Convective clouds
  • Diabatic heating
  • Microwave observations
  • Satellite observations
  • Tropical cyclones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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