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Understanding the Post-landfall Evolution of Tropical Cyclone Wind Field in an Idealized World

posted on 07.05.2021, 13:22 by Jie Chen

Landfalling tropical cyclones bring tremendous coastal and inland hazard, which depends strongly on the evolution of the wind field after the landfall. This work investigates the inland evolution of the tropical cyclone wind field via idealized numerical simulation experiments and existing theories explaining the physics of storms over the ocean. The complicated landfall process is idealized as a transient response of a mature axisymmetric tropical cyclone to instantaneous surface forcings associated with landfall.

First, idealized landfall experiments are performed in the f-plane Bryan Cloud Model (CM1), where surface drag coefficient and evaporative fraction are individually or simultaneously modified systematically beneath an axisymmetric mature storm. Surface drying stabilizes the eyewall and consequently weakens the overturning circulation, thereby reducing inward angular momentum transport that slowly decays the low-level wind field only within the inner-core. In contrast, surface roughening first weakens the entire low-level wind field rapidly and enhances the overturning circulation dynamically despite the concurrent thermodynamic stabilization of the eyewall; thereafter, the storm gradually decays in a manner similar to drying. As a result, total precipitation temporarily increases with roughening but uniformly decreases with drying. Storm inner size and outer size decrease monotonically and rapidly with surface roughening, while the radius of maximum wind can increase with moderate surface drying.

Second, the extent to which existing intensity theory formed for tropical cyclones over the ocean can explain the intensity response to idealized landfall is explored in this work. Existing theoretical predictions for the equilibrium response and transient response of storm intensity are compared against the simulated response found in previous idealized simulations. The equilibrium and transient response of storm intensity to combined surface forcings can be reproduced by the product of their individual responses, in line with traditional potential intensity theory. The intensification theory of Emanuel (2012) is generalized for predicting the weakening process and found capable of reproducing the transient intensity decay. Specifically, the rapid initial decay of near-surface wind can be captured by how kinetic energy is instantaneously reduced by surface friction, where the decay is a function of surface roughness.

Third, existing structural theory and TC radial length scale formed or identified for storms over the ocean are tested against the idealized landfall experiment where surface is individually dried or roughened. The equilibrium storm radial length scale can predict the transient response of storm size to surface roughening throughout the decay evolution. For surface drying experiments, TC size scales with the intensity after around 12h. The E04 wind field model can generally capture the transient response of TC low-level wind field to individual surface drying and roughening, from radius of maximum wind speed to the outer region. The E04 prediction for these two types of experiments exhibits limited dependence on the subsidence cooling rate applied in the model.

Overall, though results are insufficient to explain the complicated wind field evolution of every real-world landfalling storm, it provides a fundamental understanding of how storm low-level wind fields respond to inland surface properties. This work also indicates the potential for existing theory to predict how tropical cyclone intensity evolves after landfall in the real world, which is essential for improving the forecasts on any timescale and the risk assessments.


CAREER: Climate Controls on Hurricane Landfall via the Subtropical High

Directorate for Geosciences

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Collaborative Research: A Data-centric Uncertainty-informed Framework for Resilience Analytics of Critical Infrastructure Under Extreme Climate Events

Directorate for Engineering

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Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Daniel R. Chavas

Additional Committee Member 2

Frank D. Marks

Additional Committee Member 3

Daniel T. Dawson

Additional Committee Member 4

Richard Grant

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