Vertical structure of tropical cyclone rainbands as seen by the TRMM precipitation radar

Deanna A. Hence, Robert A. Houze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ten years of data from the Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission satellite's Precipitation Radar (TRMMPR) show the vertical structure of tropical cyclone rainbands. Radar-echo statistics show that rainbands have a two-layered structure, with distinct modes separated by the melting layer. The ice layer is a combination of particles imported from the eyewall and ice left aloft as convective cells collapse. This layering is most pronounced in the inner region of the storm, and the layering is enhanced by storm strength. The inner-region rainbands are vertically confined by outflow from the eyewall but nevertheless are a combination of strong embedded convective cells and robust stratiform precipitation, both of which become more pronounced in stronger cyclones. Changes in rainband coverage, vertical structure, and the amount of active convection indicate a change in the nature of rainbands between the regions inward and outward of a radius of approximately 200 km. Beyond this radius, rainbands consist of more sparsely distributed precipitation that is more convective in nature than that of the inner-region rainbands, and the outer-region rainband structures are relatively insensitive to changes in storm intensity. The rainbands in both inner and outer regions are organized with respect to the environmental wind shear vector. The right-of-shear quadrants contain newer convection while in the left-ofshear quadrants the radar echoes are predominantly stratiform. This asymmetric distribution of rainband structures strengthens with environmental wind shear. Cool sea surfaces discourage rainband convection uniformly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2644-2661
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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