The extratropical transition of Hurricane Ophelia (2017) as diagnosed with a generalized omega equation and vorticity equation

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Hurricane Ophelia was a category 3 hurricane which underwent extratropical transition and made landfall in Europe as an exceptionally strong post-tropical cyclone in October 2017. In Ireland, Ophelia was the worst storm in 50 years and resulted in significant damage and even loss of life. In this study, the different physical processes affecting Ophelia’s transformation from a hurricane to a mid-latitude cyclone are studied. For this purpose, we have developed software that uses OpenIFS model output and a system consisting of a generalized omega equation and vorticity equation. By using these two equations, the atmospheric vertical motion and vorticity tendency are separated into the contributions from different physical processes: vorticity advection, thermal advection, friction, diabatic heating, and the imbalance between the temperature and vorticity tendencies. Vorticity advection, which is often considered an important forcing for the development of mid-latitude cyclones, is shown to play a small role in the re-intensification of the low-level cyclone. Instead, our results show that the adiabatic upper-level forcing was strongly amplified by moist processes, and thus, the diabatic heating was the dominant forcing in both the tropical and extratropical phases of Ophelia. Furthermore, we calculated in more detail the diabatic heating contributions from different model parameterizations. We find that the temperature tendency due to the convection scheme was the dominant forcing for the vorticity tendency during the hurricane phase, but as Ophelia transformed into a mid-latitude cyclone, the microphysics temperature tendency, presumably dominated by large-scale condensation, gradually increased becoming the dominant forcing once the transition was complete. Temperature tendencies caused by other diabatic processes, such as radiation, surface processes, vertical diffusion, and gravity wave drag, were found to be negligible in the development of the storm.
TidskriftTellus. Series A: Dynamic Meteorology and Oceanography
Sidor (från-till)1-26
Antal sidor26
StatusPublicerad - 1 jan 2020
MoE-publikationstypA1 Tidskriftsartikel-refererad


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