Structure of highly sheared Tropical Storm Chantal during CAMEX-4

Gerald M. Heymsfield, J. Halverson, E. Ritchie, Joanne Simpson, J. Molinari, L. Tian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Tropical Storm Chantal during August 2001 was a storm that failed to intensify over the few days prior to making landfall on the Yucatan Peninsula. An observational study of Tropical Storm Chantal is presented using a diverse dataset including remote and in situ measurements from the NASA ER-2 and DC-8 and the NOAA WP-3D N42RF aircraft and satellite. The authors discuss the storm structure from the larger-scale environment down to the convective scale. Large vertical shear (850-200-hPa shear magnitude range 8-15 m s-1) plays a very important role in preventing Chantal from intensifying. The storm had a poorly defined vortex that only extended up to 5-6-km altitude, and an adjacent intense convective region that comprised a mesoscale convective system (MCS). The entire low-level circulation center was in the rain-free western side of the storm, about 80 km to the west-southwest of the MCS. The MCS appears to have been primarily the result of intense convergence between large-scale, low-level easterly flow with embedded downdrafts, and the cyclonic vortex flow. The individual cells in the MCS such as cell 2 during the period of the observations were extremely intense, with reflectivity core diameters of 10 km and peak updrafts exceeding 20 m s-1. Associated with this MCS were two broad subsidence (warm) regions, both of which had portions over the vortex. The first layer near 700 hPa was directly above the vortex and covered most of it. The second layer near 500 hPa was along the forward and right flanks of cell 2 and undercut the anvil divergence region above. There was not much resemblance of these subsidence layers to typical upper-level warm cores in hurricanes that are necessary to support strong surface winds and a low central pressure. The observations are compared to previous studies of weakly sheared storms and modeling studies of shear effects and intensification. The configuration of the convective updrafts, low-level circulation, and lack of vertical coherence between the upper- and lower-level warming regions likely inhibited intensification of Chantal. This configuration is consistent with modeled vortices in sheared environments, which suggest the strongest convection and rain in the downshear left quadrant of the storm, and subsidence in the upshear right quadrant. The vertical shear profile is, however, different from what was assumed in previous modeling in that the winds are strongest in the lowest levels and the deep tropospheric vertical shear is on the order of 10-12 m s-1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)268-287
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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