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On the role of convective available potential energy (CAPE) in tropical cyclone intensification

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Lee, M., & Frisius, T. (2018). On the role of convective available potential energy (CAPE) in tropical cyclone intensification. Tellus Series A-Dynamic Meteorology and Oceanography, 70(1): 1433433, pp. 1-19. doi:10.1080/16000870.2018.1433433.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0000-FFC1-7
This study addresses the role of convective available potential energy (CAPE) in the intensification of simulated tropical cyclones. Additionally, it also examines the ‘wind-induced surface heat exchange’ (WISHE) theory in which CAPE is non-existent during intensification. We use a hierarchy of models with different complexity. A low-order tropical cyclone model forms the simplest model. It is found that the damping of CAPE by fast convective exchange as assumed in the WISHE theory inhibits substantial intensification in the model. This result can be explained by the dominance of the secondary circulation over surface heat transfer in the growth stage. It leads to entrainment of low entropy air into the eyewall resulting in the weakening of the cyclone. Other simulations reveal that the intensification rate increases with increasing initial CAPE and that the inner core CAPE is smaller than that of the ambient region. Investigations with the more complex Ooyama model yield qualitatively similar results. In this model, two types of convection are considered. The first one is based on frictional convergence in the boundary layer and the second one describes a convective adjustment including a precipitation efficiency. Only frictionally induced convection supports tropical cyclone intensification while the second one strongly acts to dampen the cyclone. Finally, the complex nonhydrostatic cloud model CM1 is used where the initial CAPE is varied. This model also exposes the existence of radially increasing CAPE during intensification. The experiments of this study indicate a positive relationship between the radial CAPE gradient and the intensification rate which disagrees with the basic assumption of WISHE models. The results emphasise the role of the secondary circulation for transporting high entropy air into the tropical cyclone inner core, and therefore should be considered in a proper intensification theory as has been done in the rotating convection paradigm by Montgomery and Smith.