Models need to include ocean upwelling-downwelling responses to improve hurricane forecasts

From the UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI ROSENSTIEL SCHOOL OF MARINE & ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE

Study offers new insights on hurricane intensity, pollution transport

Researchers study currents that fuel hurricanes and transport pollutants to coastal beaches

The figure depicts the upper ocean warming (in red color) observed over the warm rings during the intensification of Isaac. CREDIT Benjamin Jaimes

The figure depicts the upper ocean warming (in red color) observed over the warm rings during the intensification of Isaac. CREDIT Benjamin Jaimes

MIAMI – As tropical storm Isaac was gaining momentum toward the Mississippi River in August 2012, University of Miami (UM) researchers were dropping instruments from the sky above to study the ocean conditions beneath the storm. The newly published study showed how a downwelling of warm waters deepened the storm’s fuel tank for a rapid intensification toward hurricane status. The results also revealed how hurricane-generated currents and ocean eddies can transport oil and other pollutants to coastal regions.

Tropical storms obtain their energy from the ocean waters below. As a storm moves across the Gulf of Mexico, it may interact with an upwelling of cooler waters from the deeper ocean or, in the case of Isaac, a downwelling inside rings of warm water that separated from a warm-water current, called the Loop Current, that moves through the Gulf of Mexico to join with the Gulf Stream along the U.S. East Coast. As the storm moves forward, ocean temperatures are fueling the storm’s intensity.

UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science researchers, in collaboration with NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, deployed a total of 376 airborne sensors during six NOAA hurricane hunter aircraft flights conducted before, during, and after the passage of Isaac over the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The researchers observed a predominant downwelling of water inside these warm-water rings, or eddies, from the Loop Current, which caused its intensification from a tropical storm to a category 1 hurricane just prior to landfall.

“These results underscore the need for forecast models to include upwelling-downwelling responses to improve intensity forecasting and current transport,” said Benjamin Jaimes, an assistant scientist at the UM Rosenstiel School.

“Isaac moved over the region of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill where we observed both upwelling and downwelling processes that can re-suspend hydrocarbons lying on the seafloor,” said Nick Shay, professor of ocean sciences at the UM Rosenstiel School. “This may have resulted in tar balls being deposited on beaches by hurricane-generated currents.”

Tropical storm Isaac gradually intensified in the Gulf of Mexico to reach category 1 hurricane status as an 80 mph (130 km/h) storm, making landfall along the coast of Louisiana. The storm was estimated to have caused $2.39 billion in damage along its track.

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The study, titled “Enhanced Wind-Driven Downwelling Flow in Warm Oceanic Eddy Features during the Intensification of Tropical Cyclone Isaac (2012): Observations and Theory,” was published in the June 2015 issue of the Journal of Physical Oceanography. The study’s co-authors include: Benjamin Jaimes and Lynn “Nick” Shay of the UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science’s Department of Ocean Sciences. BP/Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative to the Deep-C consortium at Florida State University supported the research.

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30 thoughts on “Models need to include ocean upwelling-downwelling responses to improve hurricane forecasts

  1. A “study” = Gravy Train money.
    Storm damage cost $2,390,000,000- … so that amount could easily have been paid for out of the wasted global warming monies in that year alone.

    • ya spend no money on improving hurricane forecasting.
      its just models after all and they always get the track wrong

      • If the Hurricane count keeps falling, we won’t even need to ‘model’ them and get track wrong!
        P.S. Didn’t the ‘models’ promise more hurricanes?
        Never once recall the ‘models’ predicting a hurricane drought.

      • This is no model, but simple calculation (done in 2011) based on the actual data and anticipated less hurricanes.
        For better forecasting they should look at a better known downwelling much further north. When the warm saline Atlantic current loose the heat content to the cold westerly winds it downwells both to the south and north of Iceland, local atmospheric pressure reflects the rate of donwelling. The current becomes part of the deep oceanic conveyor belt, flowing back towards the Equator. Part of this current upwells of the coast of the west Africa, the area where hurricanes are initiated.
        Thus as expected change in the Arctic atmospheric pressure may give some idea of the future hurricane occurrence and intensity, since there are other factors involved, correlation of two is not perfect but it may provide initial base for future forecasting.
        http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/AHA.gif
        Graph was produced in late 2011 and updated in2012 (copy emailed to Dr. J. Curry in Jan 2012, “thx. the 15 year lag is the main challenge here, but you have a plausible explanation” ). It appears that it has correctly anticipated (to a degree) fall in the hurricane activity.

      • “These results underscore the need for forecast models to include upwelling-downwelling responses to improve intensity forecasting and current transport,”

        If emergent properties dont emerge by themselves in the models, then no amount of “educated” prompts for them to appear is ever going to enable us to predict how they’ll change in the future. Its why models today are useless for projection. No emergent clouds – they’re fudged. No emergent ENSO. The list goes on…
        Weather forecasting is a different problem Steve. We can do that one because we’re not expecting anything to fundamentally change over the period of a weather forecast.

      • Steven Mosher
        July 31, 2015 at 4:49 pm
        ya spend no money on improving hurricane forecasting.
        its just models after all and they always get the track wrong
        ___
        Weather models observation, so work acceptably for a few days.
        GCM models are b@stardizaed and biased to incorrect theoretical axioms, so are a laughing stock with respect to observation.
        Self correction might help, but that would require honesty, and a lack of willful malign politicizing of ‘science’ for money grubbing reasons.
        Hence economics as ‘science’ is far more credible.

  2. The hurricane/typhoon is best modelled as a 2T Carnot Cycle. 303-306 K surface water temps to 200 K temp at 15 Km altitude where the once ocean heat content is dumped to outerspace. The. Inward spiraling surface winds advect off moisture from the surface water.That pulls some sensible heat in latent heat of evaporation. Leaving saltier cooler denser water to sink. Of course dwelling in one spatial location necessitates upwelling recharge in another. Which is why hurricanes that stall forward motion can’t strengthen. They have to have lateral motion to new waters to strengthen and maintain their feedstock of warm water.

      • JKrob,
        Your ad homs insults not withstanding,
        Standard Tropical cyclone undergrad instruction:
        THE THEORY OF HURRICANES
        Kerry A. Emanuel
        http://i58.tinypic.com/8xpzsi.png
        The surface of the ocean has 1000 meters of atmosphere with deep water vapor to pass IR energy through. Most gets redirected back, not to space. The stratosphere has virtually none, where IR rapidly goes to space.
        The convective pipes of a hurricane/TC offer an efficient path through which vigorours amounts of OHC is convected through the atmosphere, a pipeline that punches through the tropopause. The TC also has ocean surface waves and vigorous inflowing winds, with lower humidity, to advect off the heat. Like a fan in the gym on a hot sweaty body.
        Have you ever stood in front of a fan at the gym when you were sweating? It is the same processs with inward flow of wind across a hot tropical ocean surface. The removal of heat is so much more effective than simply standing by the ocean on a warm muggy marine air night hoping for some meager IR cooling effect.
        The wind flow of that fan across your body cools you by removing (advection driven evaporation) water from your salty sweaty skin. It leaves the salt behind, just like the ocean. A white salt line on your clothes and skin too. The water vapor now has your body heat that couldn’t be rapidly lost through IR flux to a high humidity sky.
        JKrob, If that isn’t clear enough to you, you are simply stupid beyond help.

    • Ummm…do you really want to claim that a clear atmosphere (no clouds) *blocks* 100 K of IR energy & it takes deep convection to get that ‘heat’ to the top of the atmosphere (after 100 K of adiabatic cooling, of course) to radiate out the remaining 200 K?
      References please…
      BTW – a clear sky is *always* more efficient at radiating surface heat to space that any colder cloud top. One would think that was obvious
      [“blocks 100 K of IR energy”? “K” ?? 100 Watts maybe? More like 300 watts, at the average equatorial latitude on the average noon. .mod]

      • The heat is sunlight fueled Ocean Heat content (OHC) down to about the top 30 meters. To get OHC to outerspace it has to be evaporated off (via strong advection, inward flowing lower humidity air) and then convectivally transported through the hot convection columns, punching through the stable tropopause barrier, into the lower stratosphere. That is why upper level wind shear can devastate formation. It can chop-off the tropopause bust through connection to the stratosphere. Then the weaker convection cloud tops get confined to the tropopause or troposphere where the heat flow is greatly lessened. Establishing a stable pipe though to the stratosphere and its stable cold temp, clear sky view to space is vital for TC development.
        You need to visualize the warm tropical surface waters are the fuel in the tank. Without an efficient engine, the are slow to move (fortunately, since that means they are stable heat reservoirs for global climate control and homestasis). The hurricane/TC is the turbo-charge heat engine connecting two very different T regimes. The hurricaen itself is a marvel of an emegent property from a complex set of parts which requires the right conditions to mature into a strong TC/hurricane.
        The warm ocean water, with a water vapor-saturated 2 meter air layer over it is inherently stable in descending air high pressure systems. That means the sunlight gets through the air layer to heat the water column, that is until the hurricane/TC comes ripping across it, harvesting the fuel. Normally those warm surface waters have no way of rapid energy release to the cold stratosphere until the advective+ convective conditions with strong inward flowing unsaturated air, come togehter to allow the hot convection columns (that form the eye wall and strongest inner storm bands) to move that OHC between the two T regimes. Convection and adiabatic expansion of massive amounts of warm saturated air are the power stroke. The exhaust (and cooling as it rises) includes copious amounts of fresh life giving rain water to islands and continents being flung out from bands back to the surface. The energy release is the work done on the system (winds, waves, water transport).
        The clear sky is the 200 K lower stratosphere (15 – 17 Km) where the spreading outflow tops release their heat as IR to 3K space.

      • But you must also consider that the atmospheric window (the wavelengths where there is no greenhouse absorption) is only about 25% looking up from the surface on clear days, but with high cloud tops above about 5 km it is about 75% because there is not much water vapor left at that altitude. CO2 only captures energy in the 12 to 18 micron range which is only about 20% of total leaving the surface, but it absorbs up until about 10 km and higher.
        Some numbers:
        At the surface on clear days, 15 C and 390 Wm-2 x 0.25 = 98 wm-2 to space
        With average clouds of 60%, only about 40% of this or 40 Wm-2 to space.
        At 5 km and –17 C, 242 Wm-2 x 0.75 = 182 wm-2 to space with no clouds above (the usual case).

      • “do you really want to claim that a clear atmosphere (no clouds) *blocks* 100 K of IR energy & it takes deep convection to get that ‘heat’ to the top of the atmosphere (after 100 K of adiabatic cooling, of course) to radiate out the remaining 200 K?”

        Shortanswer: Yes.
        Longer answer: W/o a TC heat engine, the sea level pressure, near-saturated marine air layer effectively limits how fast IR energy can radiate from the top skin layer of the warm salt water ocean. Thunderstorm driven covection is also a mechanism to move OHC to the stratosphere, it just isn’t as cool an emergent phenomenon as a full-blown hurricane. Hurricanes bring fast, drier air spiralling inward to effectively advectivly remove off the fuel (warm water). The fuel is then burned by the adiabatic lapse rate as it convectvely rises, which is self-reinforcing.
        Also, CO2 @ 4 pp tenthousand is miniscule in total effect compared to 400 pptenthousand H2O in the humid marine layer.
        Long answer: see above.

      • Boy Joel, you sure said alot without saying much…and I’m still waiting for the references I asked for showing how a clear sky blocks all that heat from radiating out to space.
        But anyways…

        The warm ocean water, with a water vapor-saturated 2 meter air layer over it is inherently stable in descending air high pressure systems.

        Ahhh, this is true! The atmosphere across the majority of the tropics is conditionally unstable which means deep convection will not happen unless something comes along to force it…now, there is shallow convection all over the place – day & night through the tropical ocean. Which leads to a VERY important question – what causes the deep convection/rising air in a TC if the atmosphere is inherently stable?

        The energy release [in a hurricane/TC] is the work done on the system (winds, waves, water transport).

        The clear sky is the 200 K lower stratosphere (15 – 17 Km) where the spreading outflow tops release their heat as IR to 3K space.

        Your saying 2 different things here which, I presume, are to show the importance of Tropical Cyclones. The first is correct (the major function of the TC/hurricanes is to convert the heat in the oceans to wind & rain). The second is misguided & mostly irrelevant. How can I say that? If you notice from satellite pictures, large tropical MCC (Mesoscale Convective Complexes) can have the same cold cloud tops over an area as large, or larger, that tropical cyclones but yet very little work is getting done compared to TCs. Plus, the exhausted relatively dry air coming out & away from the top of the TC has to start sinking to maintain the atmospheric hydrostatic balance…and it will warm as it sinks at the dry adiabatic lapse rate…and this means it will warm more descending than it cooled rising.
        Hmmmm….

      • ” Plus, the exhausted relatively dry air coming out & away from the top of the TC has to start sinking to maintain the atmospheric hydrostatic balance…and it will warm as it sinks at the dry adiabatic lapse rate…and this means it will warm more descending than it cooled rising.”

        Descending dry air has a far, far differnet heat capacity than ascending humid air. Stop being stupid.
        You overlook the fact that the descending air is now mostl stripped of water. Water is the key that you miss. Water as a GHG in the lower 1000m air column that inhibits IR tansport. Water, as vapor adiabiatilcally cooling, that is convectively pushed past the tropopause, releasing heat to 200 K. stratosphere
        It is not the air that transports the ocean heat adiabatically to the stratosphere. It is the water cycle (the vapor in the air), that warm water as vapor that ulitmaltely produces the white cirro-stratus clouds (as a amrker of where the IR release to the stratosphere to space) and copious amounts of fresh water rainfall (on islands and continents).

      • [“blocks 100 K of IR energy”? “K” ?? 100 Watts maybe? More like 300 watts, at the average equatorial latitude on the average noon. .mod]

        Dear Mod,
        Did you not read his original post claiming there is a 100K thermal gradient (call it whatever you wish) which acts as a block of surface LWIR which I was responding to? Don’t get hung up on the *energy* part – we were talking temperature…it was late but I didn’t think it was that hard to follow.
        As for Joel,
        I’ve asked you twice for references to back up your claims which you have ignored which, obviously tells me, you don’t have a clue as to what you are talking about.
        I have over 40 years experience in meteorology, 25 years in satellite meteorology & have a collection of nearly 300 AMS manuals (Journal of Atmospheric Science & Monthly Weather Review) dealing with Tropical Meteorology & none of them make any claims to support what you are talking about.
        Of course, they are all wrong…and your right
        I’m done wasting my time

      • JKrob
        Transport of heat from the oceans to the atmosphere occurs via either radiation or convection of water vapor removed from the liquid surface.
        The tropical ocean has a surface temp in the 300 K – 305 K range. The lower stratosphere at 15-17 Km in tropics is in the 200 K range. The top 2 meters of marine air over the tropical ocean are in close thermal equilibrium (same temp). The marine air layer has a moist adiabatic lapse rate lower (varible but averages around -6 K/Km) than the -10 K/km lapse rate of a dry adiabat.
        Radiative cooling of the tropical ocean is greatly impeded with a stable marine (moist) air layer sitting over it.
        The cold 200K air parcels that were convectively lifted to the dry stratosphere then efficiently radiate their heat to space.
        Water vapor in the tropical troposphere and its radiative gas properties are the key insight you are missing when you think the tropical oceans can efficient cool via radiative transport.

    • I’m always very interested in what is being done to make hurricane forecasting more accurate. I don’t know if there are any studies but the 5-7 day forecast is essentially worthless. I like being in the center of the track at that stage; to my memory I’ve never seen that track correct. It’s almost like the probabilities are inverted in the track cone. Should be virtually 0 in the center of the track. The only use for 5-7 is to figure out when (what day) I need to pay more attention at the 3 day. And then it’s more about intensity defining what preparations are prudent. Don’t remember which one but I do remember coastal tampa/St. Pete being evacuated toward Orlando; hurricane ironically jogged over Orlando. Yes, getting away from the coast is prudent. By the time you absolutely know you should evacuate it’s too late. This returns to the point of getting more accurate forecasting.

  3. why?….they are going to call every two clouds on speaking terms anyway….then claim there’s more of them, like it’s the same 50 years ago

  4. Isaac winds speeds dropped suddenly just prior to landfall.
    The sustained surface winds when Isaac reached Louisiana never exceeded 30 meters per second.
    http://tinyurl.com/ppf2d98
    Shows the offshore buoy with the highest recorded sustained winds.
    No other land station or offshore buoy shows sustained wind speeds reaching hurricane threshold (33 meters per second)
    Isaac was not a hurricane at landfall. Photos of land damage are consistent with a tropical storm.

    • Well this is the storm they spent their grant money on, so be nice and let them exaggerate.
      🙂

      • They say start small 🙂
        I think this is much better than Florida State arctic studies. Maybe an intuitive sense of the weather is not required but I think the theory is sound. FSU people shouldn’t even be allowed to have ice in there drinks.

  5. I’ve been reading a book on local Colorado geology. It says that anticlines (folds) in the surrounding layers of sandstone and shale form “traps” where CO2, seeping from below, is collected in huge amounts, and that this CO2 gas is constantly leaking into the atmosphere. Some of these CO2 pockets are commercially used to produce dry ice. There are also commercially developed large pockets of natural gas (methane) in near-surface geological formations, and they also naturally leak all the time.
    How IPCC models and other projections account for these natural “greenhouse gases” seeping from the underground all over the planet?
    Also, I’ve been trying for years to find any fact-substantiated information (not naked assertions) about the amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere by volcanic activity. It seems that nobody has calculated this amount on experimental basis.

  6. From the lips of God Emperor Bon Ki Moon and foretold in ancient sacred Korean texts:
    “Models WILL sho Evil Man!”
    “Models GOOD! Man Evil!” “This tru.”
    “In Parwiss, I, Bon Ki Moon, God Emperor of EARTH, will sho Evil Man, to ALL, and I WILL kill Evil Man!”
    “I, Bon Ki Moon, God Emperor of Earth, I GOOD MAN!”
    Ha ha o’ bon

  7. You’re right, they should do that, since those hurricanes take their energy from the oceans. I think that oceans are, after the sun, the most important factor influencing our climate. And I also think that all the climate researchers should take oceans into consideration in their studies. I’ve read about this one http://oceansgovernclimate.com/russian-research-assumes-new-ice-age/ and I’m just wondering how is that possible to speak about a new Ice Age and not think about oceans?!

  8. I know where this is heading. Some do-gooder gooberment (cough hack) researcher is right now trying to figure out a way to stop hurricanes from happening, because blah blah blah climate change. And we all know how that ends. ANYTIME officials try to protect mother earth ends in further destruction of mother earth. Old growth forests + fire suppression is a prime example.

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