Orographic modification of precipitation processes in a tropical cyclone moving over a continental mountain range
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Airborne radar reflectivity data and numerical simulations are examined to determine how tropical cyclone precipitation processes are impacted by landfall over a continental mountain range. Analysis of the high-resolution radar data collected within Hurricane Karl (2010) during the Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) shows that radar reflectivity enhancement in regions of upslope flow is constrained to low-levels. Reflectivity enhancement is not uniform and discrete regions of enhanced precipitation are embedded within a broad echo. In conjunction with an upstream dropsonde that exhibits weak instability, the radar data suggest a mix of gentle ascent and shallow convection occur. Regions of downslope flow are characterized by precipitation originating further aloft with little modification near low levels. Satellite data further indicate that deep convection develops after the high clouds dissipate, indicating that the evolving thermodynamic environment favors orographic modification processes beyond collection of orographically-generated cloud water. Numerical simulations examine how modification processes controlling precipitation are affected by the height of an idealized plateau. When terrain is minimal, the tropical cyclone decays slowly, the upper-level warm core remains robust, the moist neutral environment persists, and precipitation processes are largely concentrated within the eyewall and rainband. Movement over a tall topographic barrier induces rapid decay, which erodes the warm core and moist neutral environment. A mix of forced ascent and buoyant motions contribute to enhanced warm rain processes over the terrain. Overall, all microphysical quantities are greater for the tall plateau storm, but concentrations within the innermost core decay rapidly along with the storm. It is shown that the simulated tropical cyclone precipitation is heavily influenced by overestimated graupel production, which is a common problem of microphysical schemes. Surface precipitation is comparable between the two experiments, suggesting that strong decay of the storm affects the upper limit of precipitation. Similar precipitation patterns between the observations and tall plateau simulation suggest that the model obtains realistic precipitation through incorrect microphysical processes, but a lack of microphysical observations prevent full assessment of that hypothesis. Overall, this dissertation demonstrates that decay due to landfall over complex terrain affects the inner core thermodynamic and kinematic environment, which in turn affects the type and organization of precipitation processes that occur.
- Atmospheric sciences