Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



2013 American Meteorological Society




A new spatial filter is proposed that exploits a spectral gap in power between the convective scale and the system (‘‘vortex’’) scale during tropical cyclone (TC) genesis simulations. Using this spatial separation, this study analyzes idealized three-dimensional numerical simulations of deep moist convection in the presence of a symmetric midlevel vortex to quantify and understand the energy cascade between the objectively defined convective scale and system scale during the early stages of tropical cyclogenesis. The simulations neglect surface momentum, heat, and moisture fluxes to focus on generation and enhancement of vorticity within the interior to more completely close off the energy budget and to be consistent for comparison with prior benchmark studies of modeled TC genesis.

The primary contribution to system-scale intensification comes from the convergence of convective-scale vorticity that is supplied by vortical hot towers (VHTs). They contribute more than the convergence of system-scale vorticity to the spinup of vorticity in these simulations by an order of magnitude. Analysis of the change of circulation with time shows an initial strengthening of the surface vortex, closely followed by a growth of the mid- to upper-level circulation. This evolution precludes any possibility of a stratiform precipitation–induced top-down mechanism as the primary contributor to system-scale spinup in this simulation. Instead, an upscale cascade of rotational kinetic energy during vortex mergers is responsible for spinup of the simulated mesoscale vortex. The spatial filter employed herein offers an alternative approach to the traditional symmetry–asymmetry paradigm, acknowledges the highly asymmetric evolution of the systemscale vortex itself, and may prove useful to future studies on TC genesis.