Sensitivity of Simulated Tropical Cyclone Structure and Intensity to Horizontal Resolution

Gentry, Megan S.; Lackmann, Gary M.
March 2010
Monthly Weather Review;Mar2010, Vol. 138 Issue 3, p688
Academic Journal
The Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model is used to test the sensitivity of simulations of Hurricane Ivan (2004) to changes in horizontal grid spacing for grid lengths from 8 to 1 km. As resolution is increased, minimum central pressure decreases significantly (by 30 hPa from 8- to 1-km grid spacing), although this increase in intensity is not uniform across similar reductions in grid spacing, even when pressure fields are interpolated to a common grid. This implies that the additional strengthening of the simulated tropical cyclone (TC) at higher resolution is not attributable to sampling, but is due to changes in the representation of physical processes important to TC intensity. The most apparent changes in simulated TC structure with resolution occur near a grid length of 4 km. At 4-km grid spacing and below, polygonal eyewall segments appear, suggestive of breaking vortex Rossby waves. With sub-4-km grid lengths, localized, intense updraft cores within the eyewall are numerous and both polygonal and circular eyewall shapes appear regularly. Higher-resolution simulations produce a greater variety of shapes, transitioning more frequently between polygonal and circular eyewalls relative to lower-resolution simulations. It is hypothesized that this is because of the ability to resolve a greater range of wavenumbers in high-resolution simulations. Also, as resolution is increased, a broader range of updraft and downdraft velocities is present in the eyewall. These results suggest that grid spacing of 2 km or less is needed for representation of important physical processes in the TC eyewall. Grid-length and domain size suggestions for operational prediction are provided; for operational prediction, a grid length of 3 km or less is recommended.


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