Radius of maximum wind

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The radius of maximum wind of a tropical cyclone lies just within the eyewall of an intense tropical cyclone, such as Hurricane Isabel from 2003 Hurricane Isabel from ISS.jpg
The radius of maximum wind of a tropical cyclone lies just within the eyewall of an intense tropical cyclone, such as Hurricane Isabel from 2003

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. [1] 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. [2]

Cyclone large scale air mass that rotates around a strong center of low pressure

In meteorology, a cyclone is a large scale air mass that rotates around a strong center of low atmospheric pressure. Cyclones are characterized by inward spiraling winds that rotate about a zone of low pressure. The largest low-pressure systems are polar vortices and extratropical cyclones of the largest scale. Warm-core cyclones such as tropical cyclones and subtropical cyclones also lie within the synoptic scale. Mesocyclones, tornadoes and dust devils lie within smaller mesoscale. Upper level cyclones can exist without the presence of a surface low, and can pinch off from the base of the tropical upper tropospheric trough during the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere. Cyclones have also been seen on extraterrestrial planets, such as Mars and Neptune. Cyclogenesis is the process of cyclone formation and intensification. Extratropical cyclones begin as waves in large regions of enhanced mid-latitude temperature contrasts called baroclinic zones. These zones contract and form weather fronts as the cyclonic circulation closes and intensifies. Later in their life cycle, extratropical cyclones occlude as cold air masses undercut the warmer air and become cold core systems. A cyclone's track is guided over the course of its 2 to 6 day life cycle by the steering flow of the subtropical jet stream.

Wind Flow of gases or air on a large scale

Wind is the flow of gases on a large scale. On the surface of the Earth, wind consists of the bulk movement of air. In outer space, solar wind is the movement of gases or charged particles from the Sun through space, while planetary wind is the outgassing of light chemical elements from a planet's atmosphere into space. Winds are commonly classified by their spatial scale, their speed, the types of forces that cause them, the regions in which they occur, and their effect. The strongest observed winds on a planet in the Solar System occur on Neptune and Saturn. Winds have various aspects, an important one being its velocity ; another the density of the gas involved; another its energy content or wind energy. Wind is also a great source of transportation for seeds and small birds; with time things can travel thousands of miles in the wind.

Tropical cyclone forecasting is the science of forecasting where a tropical cyclone's center, and its effects, are expected to be at some point in the future. There are several elements to tropical cyclone forecasting: track forecasting, intensity forecasting, rainfall forecasting, storm surge, tornado, and seasonal forecasting. While skill is increasing in regard to track forecasting, intensity forecasting skill remains nearly unchanged over the past several years. Seasonal forecasting began in the 1980s in the Atlantic basin and has spread into other basins in the years since.



The RMW is traditionally measured by reconnaissance aircraft in the Atlantic basin. [1] It can also be determined on weather maps as the distance between the cyclone center and the system's greatest pressure gradient. [3] Using weather satellite data, the distance between the coldest cloud top temperature and the warmest temperatature within the eye, in infrared satellite imagery, is one method of determining RMW. The reason why this method has merit is that the strongest winds within tropical cyclones tend to be located under the deepest convection, which is seen on satellite imagery as the coldest cloud tops. [1] Use of velocity data from Doppler weather radar can also be used to determine this quantity, both for tornadoes and tropical cyclones near the coast.

Surface weather analysis

Surface weather analysis is a special type of weather map that provides a view of weather elements over a geographical area at a specified time based on information from ground-based weather stations.

Weather satellite type of satellite

The weather satellite is a type of satellite that is primarily used to monitor the weather and climate of the Earth. Satellites can be polar orbiting, covering the entire Earth asynchronously, or geostationary, hovering over the same spot on the equator.

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 km (20–40 miles) 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.


Radar imagery of a tornado and associated mesocyclone in Wyoming on June 5, 2009. Reflectivity data on the left show the calm interior of the tornado. Velocity data on the right show where the strongest winds are located. 05june-rapiddow-wide.gif
Radar imagery of a tornado and associated mesocyclone in Wyoming on June 5, 2009. Reflectivity data on the left show the calm interior of the tornado. Velocity data on the right show where the strongest winds are located.

In the case of tornadoes, knowledge of the RMW is important as atmospheric pressure change (APC) within sealed buildings can cause failure of the structure. Most buildings have openings totaling one square foot per 1,000-cubic-foot (28 m3) volume to help equalize air pressure between the inside and outside of the structures. The APC is around one-half of its maximum value at the RMW, which normally ranges between 150 feet (46 m) and 500 feet (150 m) from the center (or eye) of the tornado. [4] The widest tornado as measured by actual radar wind measurements was the Mulhall tornado in northern Oklahoma, part of the 1999 Oklahoma tornado outbreak, which had a radius of maximum wind of over 800 metres (2,600 ft). [5]

Mulhall, Oklahoma Town in Oklahoma, United States

Mulhall is a town in Logan (mostly) and Payne counties in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. The population was 225 at the 2010 census, down 5.9 percent from 239 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Statistical Area.

1999 Oklahoma tornado outbreak

The 1999 Oklahoma tornado outbreak was a significant tornado outbreak that affected much of the Central and parts of the Eastern United States, with the highest record-breaking wind speeds of 301 ± 20 mph (484 ± 32 km/h). During this week-long event, 154 tornadoes touched down, more than half of them on May 3 and 4 when activity reached its peak over Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, and Arkansas.

Tropical cyclones

An average value for the RMW of 47 kilometres (29 mi) was calculated as the mean (or average) of all hurricanes with a lowest central atmospheric pressure between a pressure of 909 hectopascals (26.8 inHg) and 993 hectopascals (29.3 inHg). [6] As tropical cyclones intensify, maximum sustained winds increase as the RMW decreases. [7] However, values for RMW produced based on central pressure or maximum wind speed could be substantial scattering around the regression lines. [8] The heaviest rainfall within intense tropical cyclones has been observed in the vicinity of the RMW. [9]

Atmospheric pressure, sometimes also called barometric pressure, is the pressure within the atmosphere of Earth. The standard atmosphere is a unit of pressure defined as 1013.25 mbar (101325 Pa), equivalent to 760 mmHg (torr), 29.9212 inches Hg, or 14.696 psi. The atm unit is roughly equivalent to the mean sea-level atmospheric pressure on Earth, that is, the Earth's atmospheric pressure at sea level is approximately 1 atm.

The radius of maximum wind helps determine the direct strikes of tropical cyclones. Tropical cyclones are considered to have made a direct strike to a landmass when a tropical cyclone passes close enough to a landmass that areas inside the radius of maximum wind are experienced on land. [10] The radius of maximum wind is used within the maximum potential intensity equation. The Emanuel equation for Maximum Intensity Potential relies upon the winds near the RMW of a tropical cyclone to determine its ultimate potential. [11]

The highest storm surge is normally coincident with the radius of maximum wind. Because the strongest winds within a tropical cyclone lie at the RMW, this is the region of a tropical cyclone which generates the dominant waves near the storm, and ultimately ocean swell away from the cyclone. [12] Tropical cyclones mix the ocean water within a radius three times that of the RMW, which lowers sea surface temperatures due to upwelling. [7]

Upwelling The replacement by deep water moving upwards of surface water driven offshore by wind

Upwelling is an oceanographic phenomenon that involves wind-driven motion of dense, cooler, and usually nutrient-rich water towards the ocean surface, replacing the warmer, usually nutrient-depleted surface water. The nutrient-rich upwelled water stimulates the growth and reproduction of primary producers such as phytoplankton. Due to the biomass of phytoplankton and presence of cool water in these regions, upwelling zones can be identified by cool sea surface temperatures (SST) and high concentrations of chlorophyll-a.

Much is still unknown about the radius of maximum wind in tropical cyclones, including whether or not it can be predictable. [13]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Tropical cyclone warnings and watches are two levels of alert issued by national weather forecasting bodies to coastal areas threatened by the imminent approach of a tropical cyclone of tropical storm or hurricane intensity. They are notices to the local population and civil authorities to make appropriate preparation for the cyclone, including evacuation of vulnerable areas where necessary. It is important that interests throughout the area of an alert make preparations to protect life and property, and do not disregard it on the strength of the detailed forecast track. Tropical cyclones are not points, and forecasting their track remains an uncertain science.


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This is a list of meteorology topics. The terms relate to meteorology, the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere that focuses on weather processes and forecasting.


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.

Atlantic hurricane tropical cyclone that forms in the North Atlantic Ocean

An Atlantic hurricane or tropical storm is a tropical cyclone that forms in the Atlantic Ocean, usually between the months of June and November. A hurricane differs from a cyclone or typhoon only on the basis of location. A hurricane is a storm that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean and northeastern Pacific Ocean, a typhoon occurs in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, and a cyclone occurs in the south Pacific or Indian Ocean.

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).

Central dense overcast

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.

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.

Tropical cyclone track forecasting

Tropical cyclone track forecasting involves predicting where a tropical cyclone is going to track over the next five days, every 6 to 12 hours. The history of tropical cyclone track forecasting has evolved from a single-station approach to a comprehensive approach which uses a variety of meteorological tools and methods to make predictions. The weather of a particular location can show signs of the approaching tropical cyclone, such as increasing swell, increasing cloudiness, falling barometric pressure, increasing tides, squalls, and heavy rainfall.

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.

Glossary of tropical cyclone terms

The following is a glossary of tropical cyclone terms.

The following is a glossary of tornado terms. It includes scientific as well as selected informal terminology.


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