Simulations of the transformation stage of the extratropical transition of tropical cyclones

E. A. Ritchie, R. L. Elsberry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


The physical mechanisms associated with the transformation stage of the extratropical transition of a tropical cyclone are simulated with a mesoscale model using initial environmental conditions that approximate the mean circulations defined by Klein et al. The tropical cyclone structural changes simulated by the U.S. Navy Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Model Prediction System mesoscale model during the three steps of transformation compare well with available observations. During step 1 of transformation when the tropical cyclone is just beginning to interact with the midlatitude baroclinic zone, the main environmental factor that affects the tropical cyclone structure appears to be the decreased sea surface temperature. The movement of the tropical cyclone over the lower sea surface temperature results in reduced surface heat and moisture fluxes, which weakens the core convection and the intensity decreases. During step 2 of transformation, the low-level temperature gradient and vertical wind shear associated with the baroclinic zone begin to affect the tropical cyclone. Main structural changes include the development of cloud-free regions on the west side of the tropical cyclone, and an enhanced "delta" rain region to the northwest of the tropical cyclone center. Gradual erosion of the clouds and deep convection in the west through south sectors of the tropical cyclone appear to be from mechanically forced subsidence due to the convergence between the midlatitude flow and the tropical cyclone circulation. Whereas the warm core aloft is advected downstream, the mid- to low-level warm core is enhanced by subsidence into the tropical cyclone center, which implies that the low-level cyclonic circulation may continue to be maintained. Step 3 of transformation is the logical conclusion of structural changes that were occuring during steps 1 and 2. Even though the tropical cyclone circulation aloft has dissipated, a broad cyclonic circulation is maintained below 500 mb. Although the low-level warm core is reduced from step 2, it is still significantly stronger than at step 1, and a second warm anomaly is simulated in a region of strong subsidence upshear of the tropical cyclone remnants. Whereas some precipitation is associated with the remnants of the northern eyewall and some cloudiness to the north-northeast, the southern semicircle is almost completely clear of clouds and precipitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1462-1480
Number of pages19
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Simulations of the transformation stage of the extratropical transition of tropical cyclones'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this