Synoptic- and Frontal-Scale Influences on Tropical Transition Events in the Atlantic Basin. Part II: Tropical Transition of Hurricane Karen

Hulme, Andrew L.; Martin, Jonathan E.
November 2009
Monthly Weather Review;Nov2009, Vol. 137 Issue 11, p3626
Academic Journal
A finescale simulation of the tropical transition of Atlantic Hurricane Karen in October 2001 is examined to determine the processes leading to the development of upshear convection and its effects on the process of tropical transition. The analysis shows that, as in marine extratropical cyclones, the area upshear of the pretransition cyclone is characterized by reduced stability. Lower-tropospheric frontogenesis leads to an intense burst of convection there and instigates three important processes that combine to produce a full-fledged tropical cyclone. First, the convection generates intense low-level vorticity on the western half of the cyclone, which quickly dominates the cyclone’s vorticity field eventually organizing the circulation into a small-scale, intense vortex. Second, the diabatically enhanced circulation hastens the isolation of the cyclone’s developing warm core by intensifying cold air advection on the northern and western sides of the storm and by placing evaporatively cooled air into the boundary layer to the south of the cyclone. Third, upshear convection vertically redistributes potential vorticity (PV) from the tropopause to the surface and introduces a component to the upper-level winds, which advects strong, shear-inducing PV gradients away from the column above the cyclone. These three processes transform the initial extratropical cyclone into a frontless vortex with tropical storm–force winds and a warm core in a low-shear environment. These features are sufficient, given a warm enough ocean surface, to allow self-amplification of the storm as a tropical cyclone. The results further blur the distinction between tropical and extratropical cyclones as many of the processes identified as important to transition are similar to those that characterize ordinary marine cyclones and the extratropical occlusion process with the key distinctions being that here the convection is stronger and the initial upper-level feature is weaker. Thus, tropical transition of strong extratropical precursors follows the canonical midlatitude cyclone life cycle with upshear convection serving as the catalyst that both induces and organizes processes that favor tropical cyclogenesis in the postmature phase.


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