Clouds in Tropical Cyclones

Houze, R. (2010), Clouds in Tropical Cyclones, Mon. Wea. Rev., 138, 293-344, doi:10.1175/2009MWR2989.1.

Clouds within the inner regions of tropical cyclones are unlike those anywhere else in the atmosphere. Convective clouds contributing to cyclogenesis have rotational and deep intense updrafts but tend to have relatively weak downdrafts. Within the eyes of mature tropical cyclones, stratus clouds top a boundary layer capped by subsidence. An outward-sloping eyewall cloud is controlled by adjustment of the vortex toward gradient-wind balance, which is maintained by a slantwise current transporting boundary layer air upward in a nearly conditionally symmetric neutral state. This balance is intermittently upset by buoyancy arising from high-moist-static-energy air entering the base of the eyewall because of the radial influx of low-level air from the far environment, supergradient wind in the eyewall zone, and/or small-scale intense subvortices. The latter contain strong, erect updrafts. Graupel particles and large raindrops produced in the eyewall fall out relatively quickly while ice splinters left aloft surround the eyewall, and aggregates are advected radially outward and azimuthally up to 1.5 times around the cyclone before melting and falling as stratiform precipitation. Electrification of the eyewall cloud is controlled by its outward-sloping circulation. Outside the eyewall, a quasistationary principal rainband contains convective cells with overturning updrafts and two types of downdrafts, including a deep downdraft on the band’s inner edge. Transient secondary rainbands exhibit propagation characteristics of vortex Rossby waves. Rainbands can coalesce into a secondary eyewall separated from the primary eyewall by a moat that takes on the structure of an eye. Distant rainbands, outside the region dominated by vortex dynamics, consist of cumulonimbus clouds similar to non–tropical storm convection.

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