Aerosol Effects on Microstructure and Intensity of Tropical Cyclones
Improving the forecasts of the intensity of tropical cyclones (TCs) remains a major challenge. One possibility for improvement is consideration of the effects that aerosols have on tropical clouds and cyclones. The authors have been pursuing this under the Hurricane Aerosol and Microphysics Program, supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This was done through observations of aerosols and resulting cloud microphysical structure within tropical cyclones and simulating their effects using high-resolution TC models that treat cloud internal processes explicitly. In addition to atmospheric aerosols, special attention was given also to the impact of the intense sea-spray-generated aerosols and convective rolls in the hurricane boundary layer (BL) under hurricane- force winds. The results of simulations and observations show that TC ingestion of aerosols that serve as cloud condensation nuclei can lead to significant reductions in their intensities. This is caused by redistribution of the precipitation and latent heating to more vigorous convection in the storm periphery that cools the low levels and interferes with the inflow of energy to the eyewall, hence making the eye larger and the maximum winds weaker. The microphysical effects of the pollution and dust aerosols occur mainly at the peripheral clouds. Closer to the circulation center, the hurricane-force winds raise intense sea spray that is lifted efficiently in the roll vortices that form in the BL and coalesce into rain of mostly seawater already at cloud base, which dominates the microstructure and affects the dynamics of the inner convective cloud bands.