Varied pathways for simulated tropical cyclone rapid intensification. Part I: Precipitation and environment

Daniel S. Harnos, Stephen W. Nesbitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Two 1-km Weather Research and Forecasting model simulations of the rapid intensification (RI) periods of hurricanes Ike (2008) and Earl (2010), under low and high wind shear respectively, are performed to evaluate mechanisms linked to the initiation and maintenance of RI. Despite similar simulated intensification time series, the exhibited hydrometeor characteristics differ between the two cases since Ike possesses less asymmetry and less vigorous convection than Earl. An objective method to quantitatively estimate the radius of maximum wind (RMW) with respect to height is introduced for quantifying the primary circulation character of each storm, permitting analysis of where heating is most efficient for driving warm core growth and subsequent intensification. Following eye development in each, diabatic heating remains embedded within the RMW. Earl's RI onset coincides with an absolute maximum in diabatic heating occurring within the RMW, while Ike possesses relatively less diabatic heating inside the RMW throughout and lacks an absolute peak associated with RI. The majority of diabatic heating within the RMW of both cases occurs at subfreezing temperatures, indicative of the importance of clouds associated with ice processes in these RI simulations. Earl's diabatic heating peak is tied to a maximum in convective burst activity residing within the RMW. Earl's preference for more sparse but intense convection is associated with increased sea surface temperatures, surface heat fluxes, moisture convergence, and near-surface equivalent potential temperature relative to the broader, weaker convective character in Ike.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1816-1831
Number of pages16
JournalQuarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society
Issue number697
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016


  • Convective processes
  • Hurricane
  • Mesoscale processes
  • Radius of maximum wind
  • Rapid intensification
  • Tropical cyclone
  • Typhoon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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