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Montomery, Michael T.; Persing, John and Smith, Roger K. (2015): Putting to rest WISHE-ful misconceptions for tropical cyclone intensification. In: Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems, Vol. 7, No. 1: pp. 92-109 [PDF, 3MB]

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Abstract

The purpose of this article is twofold. The first is to point out and correct several misconceptions about the putative WISHE mechanism of tropical cyclone intensification that currently are being taught to atmospheric science students, to tropical weather forecasters, and to laypeople who seek to understand how tropical cyclones intensify. The mechanism relates to the simplest problem of an initial cyclonic vortex in a quiescent environment. This first part is important because the credibility of tropical cyclone science depends inter alia on being able to articulate a clear and consistent picture of the hypothesized intensification process and its dependencies on key flow parameters. The credibility depends also on being able to test the hypothesized mechanisms using observations, numerical models, or theoretical analyses. The second purpose of the paper is to carry out new numerical experiments using a state-of-the-art numerical model to test a recent hypothesis invoking the WISHE feedback mechanism during the rapid intensification phase of a tropical cyclone. The results obtained herein, in conjunction with prior work, do not support this recent hypothesis and refute the view that the WISHE intensification mechanism is the essential mechanism of tropical cyclone intensification in the idealized problem that historically has been used to underpin the paradigm. This second objective is important because it presents a simple way of testing the hypothesized intensification mechanism and shows that the mechanism is neither essential nor the dominant mode of intensification for the prototype intensification problem. In view of the operational, societal, and scientific interest in the physics of tropical cyclone intensification, we believe this paper will be of broad interest to the atmospheric science community and the findings should be useful in both the classroom setting and frontier research.

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