Atypical Thermodynamic Profiles in Hurricanes

Barnes, Gary M.
February 2008
Monthly Weather Review;Feb2008, Vol. 136 Issue 2, p631
Academic Journal
The global positioning system dropwindsondes deployed in Hurricane Bonnie on 26 August 1998 with supporting deployments in Hurricanes Mitch (1998) and Humberto (2001) are used to identify three unusual thermodynamic structures in the lower-cloud and subcloud layers. Two of these structures impact the energy content of the inflow and therefore the intensity of the hurricane. First, positive lapse rates of equivalent potential temperature are found near the top of the inflow. These layers insulate the inflow from the negative impacts of entrainment mixing and promote rapid energy increases, especially near the eyewall. The second structure is a rapid decrease of equivalent potential temperature adjacent to the sea surface. This is essentially a prominent surface layer that owes its existence to both higher moisture content and a superadiabatic lapse rate. The steep lapse rate most often occurs under and near the eyewall where wind speeds at the surface exceed hurricane force. The author speculates that water loading from spray increases the residence time of air parcels in the surface layer, contributing to the creation of this structure. The third feature is a moist absolutely unstable layer previously identified by Bryan and Fritsch for the midlatitudes. These layers are found adjacent to the eyewall, in rainbands, and in the hub cloud within the eye and are evidence of mesoscale or vortex-scale convergence and the very modest instabilities often found in the core of a hurricane.


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