Purdue University Graduate School
Doctoral_Thesis_Edited_Nov2019.pdf (20.31 MB)

Characterizing the Impact of Asymmetries on Tropical Cyclone Rapid Intensity Changes

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posted on 2019-01-03, 21:01 authored by Saiprasanth BhalachandranSaiprasanth Bhalachandran
A tropical cyclone (TC) vortex is an immense, coherent, organized-convective system. Beneath this large-scale organization, is a litany of azimuthally asymmetric convective motions that exist on a spectrum of scales. These asymmetries are especially dominant during periods when the vortex undergoes critical transitions in its intensity and structure. However, the precise nature of influence of the organization of asymmetries on TC intensity change remains an enigma. The inherent difficulty in predicting their behavior is because asymmetries may arise due to different external or intrinsic sources and occur at different spatial and temporal scales while several complex mechanisms act near-simultaneously to dictate their evolution in time. As a result, multiple pathways are possible for a TC vortex that is influenced by these asymmetries. Our preliminary investigations using numerical models made it apparent that there wasn't a single, unifying way to address this problem. In this thesis, I outline multiple novel techniques of diagnosing and predicting which of the many pathways are likely for a TC vortex that is influenced by azimuthal asymmetries.
First, using three-dimensional numerical simulations of a pair of sheared and non-sheared vortices, I demonstrate the diagnostic potential of the juxtaposition in the azimuthal phasing of:
(i) the asymmetrically distributed vertical eddy flux of moist-entropy across the top of the boundary layer, and the radial eddy flux of moist-entropy within the boundary layer; and (ii) eddy relative vorticity, eddy moist-entropy, and vertical velocity throughout the depth of the vortex.
Second, I introduce an energetics-based diagnostic framework that computes the energy transactions occurring at asymmetries across various length-scales in the wavenumber domain. By applying it to select cases, this thesis uncovers the relative importance of all the energy pathways that support or disrupt the growth of asymmetries within the vortex. Contrary to the traditional explanations of convective aggregation/disaggregation and axi/asymmetrization through barotropic mean-eddy transactions, my thesis reveals that the growth or disruption of asymmetries are predominantly due to (i) the baroclinic conversion from available potential to kinetic energy at individual scales of asymmetries and (ii) the transactions of kinetic energy across asymmetries of different length scales.
Finally, this thesis introduces two further diagnostic frameworks targeted at tackling the problem of real-time forecasting of TC rapid intensity changes. The first is an empirical framework which examines symmetric and asymmetric convection and other state variables within the vortex, and in the environment across a suite of TCs and identifies a set of `important' variables that are significantly different during time periods that precede a rapid intensification as opposed to a rapid weakening. My framework then ranks the variables identified based on how significantly they influence a rapid intensity change in a TC and the amplification factor of any associated variability. We recommend that future observational, and consequent TC modeling and data assimilation efforts prioritize the highest ranked variables identified here.

The second is a stochastic model wherein a scale-specific stochastic term is added to the equations describing the energy transactions within the TC vortex. By simulating a stochastic forcing that may arise from any scale, I compute the probability of the vortex transitioning into a rapidly intensifying or a rapidly weakening configuration across an ensemble of scenarios.

In summary, this thesis introduces and applies a variety of diagnostic techniques that help determine the impact of azimuthal asymmetries on TC intensity evolution.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Daniel Chavas

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Frank Marks

Additional Committee Member 2

Ernest Agee

Additional Committee Member 3

Suresh Rao

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