Impacts of air-sea flux parameterizations on the intensity and structure of tropical cyclones

Benjamin W. Green, Fuqing Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


Fluxes of momentum and moist enthalpy across the air-sea interface are believed to be one of the most important factors in determining tropical cyclone intensity. Because these surface fluxes cannot be directly resolved by numerical weather prediction models, their impacts on tropical cyclones must be accounted for through subgrid-scale parameterizations. There are several air-sea surface flux parameterization schemes available in the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model; these schemes differ from one another in their formulations of the wind speed-dependent exchange coefficients of momentum, sensible heat, and moisture (latent heat). The effects of surface fluxes on the intensity and structure of tropical cyclones are examined through convection-permitting WRF simulations of Hurricane Katrina (2005). It is found that the intensity (and, to a lesser extent, structure) of the simulated storms is sensitive to the choice of surface flux parameterization scheme. In agreement with recent studies, the drag coefficient CD is found to affect the pressure-wind relationship (between minimum sea level pressure and maximum 10-m wind speed) and to change the radius of maximum near-surface winds of the tropical cyclone. Fluxes of sensible and latent heat (i.e., moist enthalpy) affect intensity but do not significantly change the pressure-wind relationship. Additionally, when low-level winds are strong, the contribution of dissipative heating to calculations of sensible heat flux is not negligible. Expanding the sensitivity tests to several dozen cases from the 2008 to 2011 Atlantic hurricane seasons demonstrates the robustness of these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2308-2324
Number of pages17
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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