Thermodynamic aspects of tropical cyclone formation

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The thermodynamic aspects of tropical cyclone (TC) formation near the center of the wave pouch, a region of approximately closed Lagrangian circulation within the wave critical layer, are examined through diagnoses of a high-resolution numerical simulation and dropsonde data from a recent field campaign. It is found that the meso-b area near the pouch center is characterized by high saturation fraction, small difference in equivalent potential temperature Θ e between the surface and the middle troposphere, and a short incubation time scale. Updrafts tend to be more vigorous in this region, presumably because of reduced dry air entrainment, while downdrafts are not suppressed. The thermodynamic conditions near the pouch center are thus critically important for TC formation. The balanced responses to convective and stratiform heating at the pregenesis stage are examined using the Sawyer-Eliassen equation. Deep convection is concentrated near the pouch center. The strong radial and vertical gradients of latent heat release effectively force the transverse circulation and spin up a surface protovortex near the pouch center. Stratiform heating induces modest midlevel inflow and very weak lowlevel outflow, which contributes to the midlevel spinup without substantially spinning down the low-level circulation. The analysis of dropsonde data shows that the midlevel Θ e increases significantly near the pouch center one to two days prior to genesis but changes little away from the pouch center. This may indicate convective organization and the impending TC genesis. It also suggests that the critical information of TC genesis near the pouch center may be masked out if a spatial average is taken over the pouch scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2433-2451
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • Dropsondes
  • Hurricanes/typhoons
  • Numerical analysis/modeling
  • Tropical cyclones
  • Vortices

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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