Central dense overcast

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Tropical Storm Ana (2009) with its small CDO TD2 aug 12 2009 1335Z.jpg
Tropical Storm Ana (2009) with its small CDO

The central dense overcast, or CDO, of a tropical cyclone or strong subtropical cyclone is the large central area of thunderstorms surrounding its circulation center, caused by the formation of its eyewall. It can be round, angular, oval, or irregular in shape. This feature shows up in tropical cyclones of tropical storm or hurricane strength. How far the center is embedded within the CDO, and the temperature difference between the cloud tops within the CDO and the cyclone's eye, can help determine a tropical cyclone's intensity. Locating the center within the CDO can be a problem for strong tropical storms and with systems of minimal hurricane strength as its location can be obscured by the CDO's high cloud canopy. This center location problem can be resolved through the use of microwave satellite imagery.


After a cyclone reaches hurricane intensity, an eye appears at the center of the CDO, defining its center of low pressure and its cyclonic wind field. Tropical cyclones with changing intensity have more lightning within their CDO than steady state storms. Tracking cloud features within the CDO, using frequently updated satellite imagery, can also be used to determine its intensity. The highest maximum sustained winds within a tropical cyclone, as well as its heaviest rainfall, are usually located under the coldest cloud tops in the CDO.


Southern hemisphere tropical cyclone Winston with a large CDO surrounding its eye Winston 2016-02-12 1200Z.png
Southern hemisphere tropical cyclone Winston with a large CDO surrounding its eye

It is a large region of thunderstorms surrounding the center of stronger tropical and subtropical cyclones which shows up brightly (with cold cloud tops) on satellite imagery. [1] [2] [3] The CDO forms due to the development of an eyewall within a tropical cyclone. [4] Its shape can be round, oval, angular, or irregular. [5] Its development can be preceded by a narrow, dense, C-shaped convective band. Early in its development, the CDO is often angular or oval in shape, which rounds out, increases in size, and appears more smooth as a tropical cyclone intensifies. [6] Rounder CDO shapes occur in environments with low levels of vertical wind shear. [2]

The strongest winds within tropical cyclones tend to be located under the deepest convection within the CDO, which is seen on satellite imagery as the coldest cloud tops. [7] The radius of maximum wind is usually collocated with the coldest cloud tops within the CDO, [7] which is also the area where a tropical cyclone's rainfall reaches its maximum intensity. [8] For mature tropical cyclones that are steady state, the CDO contains nearly no lightning activity, though lightning is more common within weaker tropical cyclones and for systems fluctuating in intensity. [9]


The eye is a region of mostly calm weather at the center of the CDO of strong tropical cyclones. The eye of a storm is a roughly circular area, typically 30–65 kilometres (19–40 mi) in diameter. It is surrounded by the eyewall, a ring of towering thunderstorms surrounding its center of circulation. The cyclone's lowest barometric pressure occurs in the eye, and can be as much as 15% lower than the atmospheric pressure outside the storm. [10] In weaker tropical cyclones, the eye is less well-defined, and can be covered by high cloudiness caused by cirrus cloud outflow from the surrounding central dense overcast. [10]

Use as a tropical cyclone strength indicator

Common developmental patterns seen during tropical cyclone development, and their Dvorak-assigned intensities Dvorak1984DevelopmentalPatterns.png
Common developmental patterns seen during tropical cyclone development, and their Dvorak-assigned intensities

Within the Dvorak satellite strength estimate for tropical cyclones, there are several visual patterns that a cyclone may take on which define the upper and lower bounds on its intensity. The central dense overcast (CDO) pattern is one of those patterns. The central dense overcast utilizes the size of the CDO. The CDO pattern intensities start at T2.5, equivalent to minimal tropical storm intensity, 40 mph (64 km/h). The shape of the central dense overcast is also considered. The farther the center is tucked into the CDO, the stronger it is deemed. [5] Banding features can be utilized to objectively determine the tropical cyclone's center, using a ten degree logarithmic spiral. [11] Using the 85–92 GHz channels of polar-orbiting microwave satellite imagery can definitively locate the center within the CDO. [12]

Tropical cyclones with maximum sustained winds between 65 mph (105 km/h) and 100 mph (160 km/h) can have their center of circulations obscured by cloudiness within visible and infrared satellite imagery, which makes diagnosis of their intensity a challenge. [13] Winds within tropical cyclones can also be estimated by tracking features within the CDO using rapid scan geostationary satellite imagery, whose pictures are taken minutes apart rather than every half-hour. [14]

Related Research Articles


A rainband is a cloud and precipitation structure associated with an area of rainfall which is significantly elongated. Rainbands can be stratiform or convective, and are generated by differences in temperature. When noted on weather radar imagery, this precipitation elongation is referred to as banded structure. Rainbands within tropical cyclones are curved in orientation. Tropical cyclone rainbands contain showers and thunderstorms that, together with the eyewall and the eye, constitute a hurricane or tropical storm. The extent of rainbands around a tropical cyclone can help determine the cyclone's intensity.

Annular tropical cyclone tropical cyclone with a symmetrical shape

An annular tropical cyclone is a tropical cyclone that features a normal to large, symmetric eye surrounded by a thick and uniform ring of intense convection, often having a relative lack of discrete rainbands, and bearing a symmetric appearance in general. As a result, the appearance of an annular tropical cyclone can be referred to as akin to a tire or doughnut. Annular characteristics can be attained as tropical cyclones intensify; however, outside the processes that drive the transition from asymmetric systems to annular systems and the abnormal resistance to negative environmental factors found in storms with annular features, annular tropical cyclones behave similarly to asymmetric storms. Most research related to annular tropical cyclones is limited to satellite imagery and aircraft reconnaissance as the conditions thought to give rise to annular characteristics normally occur over water well removed from landmasses where surface observations are possible.

Eye (cyclone) region of mostly calm weather at the center of strong tropical cyclones

The eye is a region of mostly calm weather at the center of strong tropical cyclones. The eye of a storm is a roughly circular area, typically 30–65 kilometers in diameter. It is surrounded by the eyewall, a ring of towering thunderstorms where the most severe weather and highest winds occur. The cyclone's lowest barometric pressure occurs in the eye and can be as much as 15 percent lower than the pressure outside the storm.

Dvorak technique

The Dvorak technique is a widely used system to estimate tropical cyclone intensity based solely on visible and infrared satellite images. Within the Dvorak satellite strength estimate for tropical cyclones, there are several visual patterns that a cyclone may take on which define the upper and lower bounds on its intensity. The primary patterns used are curved band pattern (T1.0-T4.5), shear pattern (T1.5–T3.5), central dense overcast (CDO) pattern (T2.5–T5.0), central cold cover (CCC) pattern, banding eye pattern (T4.0–T4.5), and eye pattern (T4.5–T8.0).

Extratropical cyclone type of cyclone

Extratropical cyclones, sometimes called mid-latitude cyclones or wave cyclones, are low-pressure areas which, along with the anticyclones of high-pressure areas, drive the weather over much of the Earth. Extratropical cyclones are capable of producing anything from cloudiness and mild showers to heavy gales, thunderstorms, blizzards, and tornadoes. These types of cyclones are defined as large scale (synoptic) low pressure weather systems that occur in the middle latitudes of the Earth. In contrast with tropical cyclones, extratropical cyclones produce rapid changes in temperature and dew point along broad lines, called weather fronts, about the center of the cyclone.

Hurricane Dora (1999) Category 4 Pacific hurricane and typhoon in 1999

Hurricane Dora was one of few tropical cyclones to track across all three north Pacific basins and the first since Hurricane John in 1994. The fourth named storm, third hurricane, and second major hurricane of the 1999 Pacific hurricane season, Dora developed on August 6 from a tropical wave to the south of Mexico. Forming as a tropical depression, the system gradually strengthened and was upgraded to Tropical Storm Dora later that day. Thereafter Dora began heading in a steadily westward direction, before becoming a hurricane on August 8. Amid warm sea surface temperatures and low wind shear, the storm continued to intensify, eventually peaking as a 140 mph (220 km/h) Category 4 hurricane on August 12.

Hurricane Adolph Category 4 Pacific hurricane in 2001

Hurricane Adolph of the 2001 Pacific hurricane season was the first and one of only two East Pacific hurricanes in May to reach Category 4 strength on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale since record keeping began in the East Pacific. Adolph was the first depression of the season, forming on May 25; it became a hurricane three days later. After rapidly intensifying, Adolph became the most powerful storm in terms of maximum sustained winds this season, along with Hurricane Juliette. The storm briefly threatened land before dissipating on June 1, after moving over colder waters.

Hurricane Guillermo (1997) Category 5 Pacific hurricane in 1997

Hurricane Guillermo was the ninth-most intense Pacific hurricane on record, attaining peak winds of 160 mph (260 km/h) and a barometric pressure of 919 hPa (27.14 inHg). Forming out of a tropical wave on July 30, 1997, roughly 345 mi (555 km) south of Salina Cruz, Mexico, Guillermo tracked in a steady west-northwestward direction while intensifying. The system reached hurricane status by August 1 before undergoing rapid intensification the following day. At the end of this phase, the storm attained its peak intensity as a powerful Category 5 hurricane. The storm began to weaken during the afternoon of August 5 and was downgraded to a tropical storm on August 8. Once entering the Central Pacific Hurricane Center's area of responsibility, Guillermo briefly weakened to a tropical depression before re-attaining tropical storm status. On August 15, the storm reached an unusually high latitude of 41.8°N before transitioning into an extratropical cyclone. The remnants persisted for more than a week as they tracked towards the northeast and later south and east before being absorbed by a larger extratropical system off the coast of California on August 24.

Radius of maximum wind

The radius of maximum wind (RMW) is the distance between the center of a cyclone and its band of strongest winds. It is a parameter in atmospheric dynamics and tropical cyclone forecasting. The highest rainfall rates occur near the RMW of tropical cyclones. The extent of a cyclone's storm surge and its maximum potential intensity can be determined using the RMW. As maximum sustained winds increase, the RMW decreases. Recently, RMW has been used in descriptions of tornadoes. When designing buildings to prevent against failure from atmospheric pressure change, RMW can be used in the calculations.

1975 Pacific Northwest hurricane Category 1 Pacific hurricane in 1975

The 1975 Pacific Northwest hurricane was an unusual Pacific tropical cyclone that attained hurricane status farther north than any other Pacific hurricane. It was officially unnamed, with the cargo ship Transcolorado providing vital meteorological data in assessing the storm. The twelfth tropical cyclone of the 1975 Pacific hurricane season, it developed from a cold-core upper-level low merging with the remnants of a tropical cyclone on August 31, well to the northeast of Hawaii. Convection increased as the circulation became better defined, and by early on September 2 it became a tropical storm. Turning to the northeast through an area of warm water temperatures, the storm quickly strengthened, and, after developing an eye, it attained hurricane status late on September 3, while located about 1,200 miles (1,950 km) south of Alaska. After maintaining peak winds for about 18 hours, the storm rapidly weakened, as it interacted with an approaching cold front. Early on September 5, it lost its identity near the coast of Alaska.

Hurricane Daniel (2006)

Hurricane Daniel was the second strongest hurricane of the 2006 Pacific hurricane season. The fourth named storm of the season, Daniel originated on July 16 from a tropical wave off the coast of Mexico. It tracked westward, intensifying steadily to reach peak winds of 150 mph (240 km/h) on July 22. At the time, the characteristics of the cyclone resembled those of an annular hurricane. Daniel gradually weakened as it entered an area of cooler water temperatures and increased wind shear, and after crossing into the Central Pacific Ocean, it quickly degenerated into a remnant low-pressure area on July 26, before dissipating two days later.

Hurricane Flossie (2007) Category 4 Pacific hurricane in 2007

Hurricane Flossie was a powerful Pacific tropical cyclone that brought squally weather and light damage to Hawaii in August 2007. The sixth named storm, second hurricane, first and only major hurricane of the inactive 2007 Pacific hurricane season, Flossie originated from a tropical wave that emerged off Africa on July 21. After traversing the tropical Atlantic, the wave crossed Central America and entered the eastern Pacific on August 1. There, a favorable environment allowed it to become a tropical depression and a tropical storm shortly thereafter on August 8.

The maximum sustained wind associated with a tropical cyclone is a common indicator of the intensity of the storm. Within a mature tropical cyclone, it is found within the eyewall at a distance defined as the radius of maximum wind, or RMW. Unlike gusts, the value of these winds are determined via their sampling and averaging the sampled results over a period of time. Wind measuring has been standardized globally to reflect the winds at 10 metres (33 ft) above the Earth's surface, and the maximum sustained wind represents the highest average wind over either a one-minute (US) or ten-minute time span, anywhere within the tropical cyclone. Surface winds are highly variable due to friction between the atmosphere and the Earth's surface, as well as near hills and mountains over land.

Hurricane Elida (2002) Category 5 Pacific hurricane in 2002

Hurricane Elida was the first hurricane of the 2002 Pacific hurricane season to reach Category 5 strength on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. Forming on July 23 from a tropical wave, the storm rapidly intensified from a tropical depression into a Category 5 hurricane in two days, and lasted for only six hours at that intensity before weakening. It was one of only sixteen known hurricanes in the East Pacific east of the International Date Line to have reached such an intensity. Although heavy waves were able to reach the Mexican coastline, no damages or casualties were reported in relation to the hurricane.

Eyewall replacement cycle

Eyewall replacement cycles, also called concentric eyewall cycles, naturally occur in intense tropical cyclones, generally with winds greater than 185 km/h (115 mph), or major hurricanes. When tropical cyclones reach this intensity, and the eyewall contracts or is already sufficiently small, some of the outer rainbands may strengthen and organize into a ring of thunderstorms—an outer eyewall—that slowly moves inward and robs the inner eyewall of its needed moisture and angular momentum. Since the strongest winds are in a cyclone's eyewall, the tropical cyclone usually weakens during this phase, as the inner wall is "choked" by the outer wall. Eventually the outer eyewall replaces the inner one completely, and the storm may re-intensify.

Glossary of tropical cyclone terms Wikipedia glossary

The following is a glossary of tropical cyclone terms.

Meteorological history of Typhoon Haiyan

Typhoon Haiyan's meteorological history began with its origins as a tropical disturbance east-southeast of Pohnpei and lasted until its degeneration as a tropical cyclone over Southern China. The thirteenth typhoon of the 2013 Pacific typhoon season, Haiyan originated from an area of low pressure several hundred kilometers east-southeast of Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia on November 2. Tracking generally westward, environmental conditions favored tropical cyclogenesis and the system developed into a tropical depression the following day. After becoming a tropical storm and attaining the name Haiyan at 0000 UTC on November 4, the system began a period of rapid intensification that brought it to typhoon intensity by 1800 UTC on November 5. By November 6, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) assessed the system as a Category 5-equivalent super typhoon on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale; the storm passed over the island of Kayangel in Palau shortly after attaining this strength.

Meteorological history of Hurricane Patricia meteorological event

Hurricane Patricia was the most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere and the second-most intense worldwide in terms of barometric pressure. It also featured the highest one-minute maximum sustained winds ever recorded in a tropical cyclone. Originating from a sprawling disturbance near the Gulf of Tehuantepec in mid-October 2015, Patricia was first classified a tropical depression on October 20. Initial development was slow, with only modest strengthening within the first day of its classification. The system later became a tropical storm and was named Patricia, the twenty-fourth named storm of the annual hurricane season. Exceptionally favorable environmental conditions fueled explosive intensification on October 22. A well-defined eye developed within an intense central dense overcast and Patricia grew from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane in just 24 hours—a near-record pace. The magnitude of intensification was poorly forecast and both forecast models and meteorologists suffered from record-high prediction errors.

Meteorological history of Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew was the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since Felix in 2007 and the southernmost Category 5 Atlantic hurricane on record. The system originated from a tropical wave that emerged off the west coast of Africa on September 22, and ultimately dissipated as an extratropical cyclone near Atlantic Canada on October 10. Late on September 29, it began a period of explosive intensification that brought it to Category 5 strength early on October 1. It weakened slightly and remained a Category 4 until its landfalls in Haiti and Cuba, afterwards it traversed through the Bahamas and paralleled the coast of Florida until making landfall in South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane. Matthew later transitioned into a post-tropical cyclone on October 10.

Meteorological history of Hurricane Dorian

Hurricane Dorian was the strongest hurricane to affect the Bahamas on record, causing catastrophic damage in the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama in early September 2019. The fifth tropical cyclone, fourth named storm, second hurricane, and first major hurricane of the annual hurricane season, Dorian originated from a westward traveling tropical wave that was located over a thousand miles east of the Windward Islands on August 23. The disturbance rapidly organized and became a tropical depression and later a tropical storm, both on August 24. The newly formed Dorian struggled to intensify over the next few days due to a combination of dry air and vertical wind shear. The storm passed over Barbados and entered the Caribbean Sea on August 26 as it gradually strengthened. Dorian made landfall in St. Lucia on the next day, which caused serious disruption to the system's structure. Initially predicted to strike Hispaniola, Dorian's track gradually shifted to the east as the storm neared Greater Antilles. Due to land interaction and the dry air, Dorian's center reformed north of its previous location, causing the system's track to shift northward. The storm then turned towards the northwest as it traveled through a weakness in a ridge. A combination of the dry air and shear relaxing as well as the warm sea surface temperatures, allowed Dorian to become a Category 1 hurricane as it passed over St. Thomas on August 28. The storm developed an eye in satellite imagery soon after, but dry air still continued to disrupt the system. The commencement of an eyewall replacement cycle on August 29 temporarily impeded intensification, but Dorian completed the cycle the next morning and soon resumed strengthening.


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