The Multiple-Vortex Nature of Tropical Cyclogenesis

Sippel, Jason A.; Nielsen-Gammon, John W.; Allen, Stephen E.
July 2006
Monthly Weather Review;Jul2006, Vol. 134 Issue 7, p1796
Academic Journal
This study explores the extent to which potential vorticity (PV) generation and superposition were relevant on a variety of scales during the genesis of Tropical Storm Allison. Allison formed close to shore, and the combination of continuous Doppler radar, satellite, aircraft, and surface observations allows for the examination of tropical cyclogenesis in great detail. Preceding Allison’s genesis, PV superposition on the large scale created an environment where decreased vertical shear and increased instability, surface fluxes, and low-level cyclonic vorticity coexisted. This presented a favorable environment for meso-α-scale PV production by widespread convection and led to the formation of surface-based, meso-β-scale vortices [termed convective burst vortices (CBVs)]. The CBVs seemed to form in association with intense bursts of convection and rotated around each other within the meso-α circulation field. One CBV eventually superposed with a mesoscale convective vortex (MCV), resulting in a more concentrated surface vortex with stronger pressure gradients. The unstable, vorticity-rich environment was also favorable for the development of even smaller, meso-γ-scale vortices that formed within the cores of deep convective cells. Several meso-γ-scale convective vortices were present in the immediate vicinity when a CBV developed, and the smaller vortices may have contributed to the formation of the CBV. The convection associated with the meso-γ vortices also fed PV into existing CBVs. Much of the vortex behavior observed in Allison has been documented or simulated in studies of other tropical cyclones. Multiscale vortex formation and interaction may be a common aspect of many tropical cyclogenesis events.


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