Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 11, 28125-28168, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed
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This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP). Please refer to the corresponding final paper in ACP.
Lagrangian coherent structures in tropical cyclone intensification
B. Rutherford1, G. Dangelmayr2, and M. T. Montgomery1
1Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA, USA
2Department of Mathematics, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Abstract. Recent work has suggested that tropical cyclones intensify via a pathway of rotating deep moist convection in the presence of enhanced fluxes of moisture from the ocean. The rotating deep convective structures possessing enhanced cyclonic vorticity within their cores have been dubbed Vortical Hot Towers (VHTs). In general, the interaction between VHTs and the system-scale vortex, as well as the corresponding evolution of equivalent potential temperature θe that modulates the VHT activity, is a complex problem in moist helical turbulence.

To better understand the structural aspects of the three-dimensional intensification process, a Lagrangian perspective is explored that focuses on the localized stirring around VHTs and their vortical remnants, as well as the evolution and stirring of θe. Recently developed finite-time Lagrangian methods are limited in the three-dimensional turbulence and shear associated with the VHTs. In this paper, new Lagrangian techniques developed for three-dimensional velocity fields are summarized and we apply these techniques to study VHT and θe phenomenology.

Our primary findings are that VHTs are coherent Lagrangian vortices that create a turbulent mixing environment. Associated with the VHTs are hyperbolic structures that modulate the aggregation of VHTs and their vortical remnants. Although the azimuthally-averaged inflow is responsible for the inward advection of boundary layer θe, the Lagrangian coherent structures are found to modulate the convection emanating from the boundary layer by stirring θe along organized attracting boundaries. Extensions of boundary layer coherent structures grow above the boundary layer during episodes of convection are responsible for organizing the remnants of the convective vortices. These hyperbolic structures form initially as boundaries between VHTs, but persist above the boundary layer and outlive the VHTs to eventually form the primary eyewall as the vortex attains maturity.

Citation: Rutherford, B., Dangelmayr, G., and Montgomery, M. T.: Lagrangian coherent structures in tropical cyclone intensification, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 11, 28125-28168, doi:10.5194/acpd-11-28125-2011, 2011.
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