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Impact of environmental moisture on tropical cyclone intensification

Wu, L., H. Su, R. Fovell, T. J. Dunkerton, Z. Wang, and B. Kahn (2015), Impact of environmental moisture on tropical cyclone intensification, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 14041-14053, doi:10.5194/acp-15-14041-2015.

The impacts of environmental moisture on the intensification of a tropical cyclone (TC) are investigated in the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model, with a focus on the azimuthal asymmetry of the moisture impacts relative to the storm path. A series of sensitivity experiments with varying moisture perturbations in the environment are conducted and the Marsupial Paradigm framework is employed to understand the different moisture impacts. We find that modification of environmental moisture has insignificant impacts on the storm in this case unless it leads to convective activity that deforms the quasi-Lagrangian boundary of the storm and changes the moisture transport into the storm. By facilitating convection and precipitation outside the storm, enhanced environmental moisture ahead of the northwestward-moving storm induces a dry air intrusion to the inner core and limits TC intensification. In contrast, increased moisture in the rear quadrants favors intensification by providing more moisture to the inner core and promoting storm symmetry, with primary contributions coming from moisture increase in the boundary layer. The different impacts of environmental moisture on TC intensification are governed by the relative locations of moisture perturbations and their interactions with the storm Lagrangian structure.

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