Mesoscale interactions in tropical cyclone genesis

J. Simpson, E. Ritchie, G. J. Holland, J. Halverson, S. Stewart

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194 Scopus citations


With the mulititude of cloud clusters over tropical oceans, it has been perplexing that so few develop into tropical cyclones. The authors postulate that a major obstacle has been the complexity of scale interactions, particularly those on the mesoscale, which have only recently been observable. While there are well-known climatological requirements, these are by no means sufficient. A major reason for this rarity is the essentially stochastic nature of the mesoscale interactions that precede and contribute to cyclone development. Observations exist for only a few forming cases. In these, the moist convection in the preformation environment is organized into mesoscale convective systems, each of which have associated mesoscale potential vortices in the midlevels. Interactions between these systems may lead to merger, growth to the surface, and development of both the nascent eye and inner rainbands of a tropical cyclone. The process is essentially stochastic, but the degree of stochasticity can be reduced by the continued interaction of the mesoscale systems or by environmental influences. For example a monsoon trough provides a region of reduced deformation radius, which substantially improves the efficiency of mesoscale vortex interactions and the amplitude of the merged vortices. Further, a strong monsoon trough provides a vertical wind shear that enables long-lived midlevel mesoscale vortices that are able to maintain, or even redevelop, the associated convective system. The authors develop this hypothesis by use of a detailed case study of the formation of Tropical Cyclone Oliver observed during TOGA COARE (1993). In this case, two dominant mesoscale vortices interacted with a monsoon trough to separately produce a nascent eye and a major rainband. The eye developed on the edge of the major convective system, and the associated atmospheric warming was provided almost entirely by moist processes in the upper atmosphere, and by a combination of latent heating and adiabatic subsidence in the lower and middle atmosphere. The importance of mesoscale interactions is illustrated further by brief reference to the development of two typhoons in the western North Pacific.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2643-2661
Number of pages19
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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