The role of convective heating in tropical cyclone eyewall ring evolution

Published in Journal of Atmospheric Sciences, 2016

Wu Chun-Chieh, Shun-Nan Wu, Ho-Hsuan Wei, and Sergio F. Abarca

The purpose of this study is to analyze the role of diabatic heating in tropical cyclone ring structure evolution. A full-physics three-dimensional modeling framework is used to compare the results with two-dimensional modeling approaches and to point to limitations of the barotropic instability theory in predicting the storm vorticity structure configuration. A potential vorticity budget analysis reveals that diabatic heating is a leading-order term and that it is largely offset by potential vorticity advection. Sawyer–Eliassen integrations are used to diagnose the secondary circulation (and corresponding vorticity tendency) forced by prescribed heating. These integrations suggest that diabatic heating forces a secondary circulation (and associated vorticity tendency) that helps maintain the original ring structure in a feedback process. Sensitivity experiments of the Sawyer–Eliassen model reveal that the magnitude of the vorticity tendency is proportional to that of the prescribed heating, indicating that diabatic heating plays a critical role in adjusting and maintaining the eyewall ring.