Dynamics of the stratiform sector of a tropical cyclone rainband

Anthony C. Didlake, Robert A. Houze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Airborne Doppler radar documented the stratiform sector of a rainband within the stationary rainband complex of Hurricane Rita. The stratiform rainband sector is a mesoscale feature consisting of nearly uniform precipitation and weak vertical velocities from collapsing convective cells. Upward transport and associated latent heating occur within the stratiform cloud layer in the form of rising radial outflow. Beneath, downward transport is organized into descending radial inflow in response to two regions of latent cooling. In the outer, upper regions of the rainband, sublimational cooling introduces horizontal buoyancy gradients, which produce horizontal vorticity and descending inflow similar to that of the trailing-stratiform region of a mesoscale convective system. Within the zone of heavier stratiform precipitation, melting cooling along the outer rainband edge creates a midlevel horizontal buoyancy gradient across the rainband that drives air farther inward beneath the brightband. The organization of this transport initially is robust but fades downwind as the convection dissipates. The stratiform-induced secondary circulation results in convergence of angular momentum above the boundary layer and broadening of the storm's rotational wind field. At the radial location where inflow suddenly converges, a midlevel tangential jet develops and extends into the downwind end of the rainband complex. This circulation may contribute to ventilation of the eyewall as inflow of low-entropy air continues past the rainband in both the boundary layer and midlevels. Given the expanse of the stratiform rainband region, its thermodynamic and kinematic impacts likely help to modify the structure and intensity of the total vortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1891-1911
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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