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Tropical cyclone rainfall forecasting involves using scientific models and other tools to predict the precipitation expected in tropical cyclones such as hurricanes and typhoons. Knowledge of tropical cyclone rainfall climatology is helpful in the determination of a tropical cyclone rainfall forecast. More rainfall falls in advance of the center of the cyclone than in its wake. The heaviest rainfall falls within its central dense overcast and eyewall. Slow moving tropical cyclones, like Hurricane Danny and Hurricane Wilma, can lead to the highest rainfall amounts due to prolonged heavy rains over a specific location. However, vertical wind shear leads to decreased rainfall amounts, as rainfall is favored downshear and slightly left of the center and the upshear side is left devoid of rainfall. The presence of hills or mountains near the coast, as is the case across much of Mexico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, much of Central America, Madagascar, Réunion, China, and Japan act to magnify amounts on their windward side due to forced ascent causing heavy rainfall in the mountains. A strong system moving through the mid latitudes, such as a cold front, can lead to high amounts from tropical systems, occurring well in advance of its center. Movement of a tropical cyclone over cool water will also limit its rainfall potential. A combination of factors can lead to exceptionally high rainfall amounts, as was seen during Hurricane Mitch in Central America.
A tropical cyclone is a rapidly rotating storm system characterized by a low-pressure center, a closed low-level atmospheric circulation, strong winds, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain. Depending on its location and strength, a tropical cyclone is referred to by different names, including hurricane, typhoon, tropical storm, cyclonic storm, tropical depression, and simply cyclone. A hurricane is a tropical cyclone that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean and northeastern Pacific Ocean, and a typhoon occurs in the northwestern Pacific Ocean; in the south Pacific or Indian Ocean, comparable storms are referred to simply as "tropical cyclones" or "severe cyclonic storms".
A tropical cyclone rainfall climatology is developed to determine rainfall characteristics of past tropical cyclones. A tropical cyclone rainfall climatology can be used to help forecast current or upcoming tropical cyclone impacts. The degree of a tropical cyclone rainfall impact depends upon speed of movement, storm size, and degree of vertical wind shear. One of the most significant threats from tropical cyclones is heavy rainfall. Large, slow moving, and non-sheared tropical cyclones produce the heaviest rains. The intensity of a tropical cyclone appears to have little bearing on its potential for rainfall over land, but satellite measurements over the last several years show that more intense tropical cyclones produce noticeably more rainfall over water. Flooding from tropical cyclones remains a significant cause of fatalities, particularly in low-lying areas.
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.
Use of forecast models can help determine the magnitude and pattern of the rainfall expected. Climatology and persistence models, such as r-CLIPER, can create a baseline for tropical cyclone rainfall forecast skill. Simplified forecast models, such as the Kraft technique and the eight and sixteen-inch rules, can create quick and simple rainfall forecasts, but come with a variety of assumptions which may not be true, such as assuming average forward motion, average storm size, and a knowledge of the rainfall observing network the tropical cyclone is moving towards. The forecast method of TRaP assumes that the rainfall structure the tropical cyclone currently has changes little over the next 24 hours. The global forecast model which shows the most skill in forecasting tropical cyclone-related rainfall in the United States is the ECMWF IFS (Integrated Forecasting System) .
Climatology or climate science is the scientific study of climate, scientifically defined as weather conditions averaged over a period of time. This modern field of study is regarded as a branch of the atmospheric sciences and a subfield of physical geography, which is one of the Earth sciences. Climatology now includes aspects of oceanography and biogeochemistry. Basic knowledge of climate can be used within shorter term weather forecasting using analog techniques such as the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO), the North Atlantic oscillation (NAO), the Northern Annular Mode (NAM) which is also known as the Arctic oscillation (AO), the Northern Pacific (NP) Index, the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO), and the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO). Climate models are used for a variety of purposes from study of the dynamics of the weather and climate system to projections of future climate. Weather is known as the condition of the atmosphere over a period of time, while climate has to do with the atmospheric condition over an extended to indefinite period of time.
Forecast skill, in the fields of forecasting and prediction, is any measure of the accuracy and/or degree of association of prediction to an observation or estimate of the actual value of what is being predicted.
The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.
A larger proportion of rainfall falls in advance of the center (or eye) than after the center's passage, with the highest percentage falling in the right-front quadrant. A tropical cyclone's highest rainfall rates can lie in the right rear quadrant within a training (non-moving) inflow band. 33.97 inches (863 mm) of rainfall per day can be expected within one-half degree, or 35 miles (56 km), of the center of a mature tropical cyclone. Many tropical cyclones progress at a forward motion of 10 knots, which would limit the duration of this excessive rainfall to around one-quarter of a day, which would yield about 8.50 inches (216 mm) of rainfall. This would be true over water, within 100 miles (160 km) of the coastline, and outside topographic features. As a cyclone moves farther inland and is cut off from its supply of warmth and moisture (the ocean), rainfall amounts from tropical cyclones and their remains decrease quickly.Rainfall is found to be strongest in their inner core, within a degree of latitude of the center, with lesser amounts farther away from the center. Most of the rainfall in hurricanes is concentrated within its radius of gale-force winds. Larger tropical cyclones have larger rain shields, which can lead to higher rainfall amounts farther from the cyclone's center. Storms which have moved slowly, or loop, lead to the highest rainfall amounts. Riehl calculated that
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.
In geography, latitude is a geographic coordinate that specifies the north–south position of a point on the Earth's surface. Latitude is an angle which ranges from 0° at the Equator to 90° at the poles. Lines of constant latitude, or parallels, run east–west as circles parallel to the equator. Latitude is used together with longitude to specify the precise location of features on the surface of the Earth. On its own, the term latitude should be taken to be the geodetic latitude as defined below. Briefly, geodetic latitude at a point is the angle formed by the vector perpendicular to the ellipsoidal surface from that point, and the equatorial plane. Also defined are six auxiliary latitudes which are used in special applications.
The Beaufort scale is an empirical measure that relates wind speed to observed conditions at sea or on land. Its full name is the Beaufort wind force scale.
Vertical wind shear forces the rainfall pattern around a tropical cyclone to become highly asymmetric, with most of the precipitation falling to the left and downwind of the shear vector, or downshear left. In other words, southwesterly shear forces the bulk of the rainfall north-northeast of the center.If the wind shear is strong enough, the bulk of the rainfall will move away from the center leading to what is known as an exposed circulation center. When this occurs, the potential magnitude of rainfall with the tropical cyclone will be significantly reduced.
Wind shear, sometimes referred to as wind gradient, is a difference in wind speed or direction over a relatively short distance in the atmosphere. Atmospheric wind shear is normally described as either vertical or horizontal wind shear. Vertical wind shear is a change in wind speed or direction with change in altitude. Horizontal wind shear is a change in wind speed with change in lateral position for a given altitude.
As a tropical cyclone interacts with an upper-level trough and the related surface front, a distinct northern area of precipitation is seen along the front ahead of the axis of the upper level trough. Surface fronts with precipitable water amounts of 1.46 inches (37 mm) or more and upper level divergence overhead east of an upper level trough can lead to significant rainfall. This type of interaction can lead to the appearance of the heaviest rainfall falling along and to the left of the tropical cyclone track, with the precipitation streaking hundreds of miles or kilometers downwind from the tropical cyclone.
A trough is an elongated (extended) region of relatively low atmospheric pressure, often associated with fronts. Troughs may be at the surface, or aloft, or both under various conditions. Most troughs bring clouds, showers, and a wind shift, particularly following the passage of the trough. This results from convergence or "squeezing" which forces lifting of moist air behind the trough line.
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.
Moist air forced up the slopes of coastal hills and mountain chains can lead to much heavier rainfall than in the coastal plain.This heavy rainfall can lead to landslides, which still cause significant loss of life such as seen during Hurricane Mitch in Central America, where several thousand perished.
Hurricane Mitch was the second-deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record, causing over 11,000 fatalities in Central America, with over 7,000 occurring in Honduras alone due to the catastrophic flooding it wrought, due to the slow motion of the storm. It was the deadliest hurricane in Central America, surpassing Hurricane Fifi–Orlene, which killed slightly fewer people there in 1974. The thirteenth named storm, ninth hurricane, and third major hurricane of the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season, Mitch formed in the western Caribbean Sea on October 22, and after drifting through extremely favorable conditions, it rapidly strengthened to peak at Category 5 status, the highest possible rating on the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale. After drifting southwestward and weakening, the hurricane hit Honduras as a minimal hurricane. Mitch drifted through Central America, regenerated in the Bay of Campeche, and ultimately struck Florida as a strong tropical storm. It then became extratropical and accelerated northeastward across the North Atlantic, before dissipating on November 9. At the time, Mitch was the strongest Atlantic hurricane observed in the month of October, though it has since been surpassed by Hurricane Wilma of the 2005 season. In addition, Mitch is the eighth-most intense Atlantic hurricane on record.
Central America is located on the southern tip of North America, or is sometimes defined as a subcontinent of the Americas, bordered by Mexico to the north, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south. Central America consists of seven countries: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. The combined population of Central America has been estimated to be 41,739,000 and 42,688,190.
The Hurricane Research Division of the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory created the r-CLIPER (rainfall climatology and persistence) model to act as a baseline for all verification regarding tropical cyclone rainfall. The theory is, if the global forecast models cannot beat predictions based on climatology, then there is no skill in their use. There is a definite advantage to using the forecast track with r-CLIPER because it could be run out 120 hours/5 days with the forecast track of any tropical cyclone globally within a short amount of time. The short range variation which uses persistence is the Tropical Rainfall Potential technique (TRaP) technique, which uses satellite-derived rainfall amounts from microwave imaging satellites and extrapolates the current rainfall configuration forward for 24 hours along the current forecast track. This technique's main flaw is that it assumes a steady state tropical cyclone which undergoes little structural change with time, which is why it is only run forward for 24 hours into the future.
Computer models can be used to diagnose the magnitude of tropical cyclone rainfall. Since forecast models output their information on a grid, they only give a general idea as to the areal coverage of moderate to heavy rainfall. No current forecast models run at a small enough grid scale (1 km or smaller) to be able to detect the absolute maxima measured within tropical cyclones. Of the United States forecasting models, the best performing model for tropical cyclone rainfall forecasting is known as the GFS, or Global Forecasting System. The GFDL model has been shown to have a high bias concerning the magnitude of heavier core rains within tropical cyclones. Beginning in 2007, the NCEP Hurricane-WRF became available to help predict rainfall from tropical cyclones. Recent verification shows that both the European ECMWF forecast model and North American Mesoscale Model (NAM) show a low bias with heavier rainfall amounts within tropical cyclones.
During the late 1950s, this rule of thumb came into being, developed by R. H. Kraft. 60 miles (97 km) apart) are used to derive storm totals. Canada uses a modified version of the Kraft rule which divides the results by a factor of two, which takes into account the lower sea surface temperatures seen around Atlantic Canada and the prevalence of systems undergoing vertical wind shear at their northerly latitudes. The main problem with this rule is that the rainfall observing network is denser than either the synoptic reporting network or the first order station networks, which means the absolute maximum is likely to be underestimated. Another problem is that it does not take the size of the tropical cyclone or topography into account.It was noted from rainfall amounts (in imperial units) reported by the first order rainfall network in the United States that the storm total rainfall fit a simple equation: 100 divided by the speed of motion in knots. This rule works, even in other countries, as long as a tropical cyclone is moving and only the first order or synoptic station network (with observations spaced about
The 2000 Atlantic hurricane season was the first Atlantic hurricane season without a tropical cyclone in the month of July since 1993. The hurricane season officially began on June 1, and ended on November 30. It was slightly above average due to a La Niña weather pattern although most of the storms were weak. The first cyclone, Tropical Depression One, developed in the southern Gulf of Mexico on June 7 and dissipated after an uneventful duration. However, it would be almost two months before the first named storm, Alberto, formed near Cape Verde; Alberto also dissipated with no effects on land. Several other tropical cyclones—Tropical Depression Two, Tropical Depression Four, Chris, Ernesto, Nadine, and an unnamed subtropical storm—did not impact land. Five additional storms—Tropical Depression Nine, Florence, Isaac, Joyce, and Leslie—minimally affected land areas.
Hurricane Klaus was a minimal Atlantic hurricane that dropped heavy rainfall across the Lesser Antilles in October 1990. The eleventh tropical cyclone and sixth hurricane of the 1990 Atlantic hurricane season, Klaus developed from a tropical wave on October 3 a short distance east of Dominica. It drifted northwestward, and quickly intensified to attain hurricane status on October 5. Though its closest approach to the Lesser Antilles was within 12 miles (19 km), the strongest winds remained to its northeast due to strong wind shear, which caused Klaus to steadily weaken. After deteriorating into a tropical depression, Klaus briefly restrengthened over the Bahamas before dissipating on October 9 under the influence of developing tropical storm, Marco.
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.
A mesoscale convective system (MCS) is a complex of thunderstorms that becomes organized on a scale larger than the individual thunderstorms but smaller than extratropical cyclones, and normally persists for several hours or more. A mesoscale convective system's overall cloud and precipitation pattern may be round or linear in shape, and include weather systems such as tropical cyclones, squall lines, lake-effect snow events, polar lows, and Mesoscale Convective Complexes (MCCs), and generally form near weather fronts. The type that forms during the warm season over land has been noted across North America, Europe, and Asia, with a maximum in activity noted during the late afternoon and evening hours.
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.
Hurricane Philippe was a short-lived hurricane that formed over the Atlantic in September during the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. Philippe was the sixteenth named storm and ninth hurricane of the season.
A tropical cyclone forecast model is a computer program that uses meteorological data to forecast aspects of the future state of tropical cyclones. There are three types of models: statistical, dynamical, or combined statistical-dynamic. Dynamical models utilize powerful supercomputers with sophisticated mathematical modeling software and meteorological data to calculate future weather conditions. Statistical models forecast the evolution of a tropical cyclone in a simpler manner, by extrapolating from historical datasets, and thus can be run quickly on platforms such as personal computers. Statistical-dynamical models use aspects of both types of forecasting. Four primary types of forecasts exist for tropical cyclones: track, intensity, storm surge, and rainfall. Dynamical models were not developed until the 1970s and the 1980s, with earlier efforts focused on the storm surge problem.
Hurricane Erika was a weak hurricane that struck extreme northeastern Mexico near the Texas-Tamaulipas border in mid-August of the 2003 Atlantic hurricane season. Erika was the eighth tropical cyclone, fifth tropical storm, and third hurricane of the season. At first, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) operationally did not designate it as a hurricane because initial data suggested winds of 70 mph (115 km/h) at Erika's peak intensity. It was not until later data was analyzed that the NHC revised it to Category 1 intensity in the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. The storm developed from a non-tropical area of low pressure that was tracked for five days before developing in the eastern Gulf of Mexico on August 14. Under the influence of a high pressure system, Erika moved quickly westward and strengthened under favorable conditions. It made landfall as a hurricane on northeastern Mexico on August 16 and rapidly dissipated inland.
Tropical Storm Debby was the fifth tropical storm of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season. Debby formed just off the coast of Africa on August 21 from a tropical wave. After passing near the Cape Verde islands, Debby moved generally northwestward for much of its life, reaching a peak intensity of 50 mph (85 km/h). Strong wind shear weakened the storm, and Debby dissipated on August 27 over the northern Atlantic Ocean.
The characteristics of United States rainfall climatology differ significantly across the United States and those under United States sovereignty. Late summer and fall extratropical cyclones bring a majority of the precipitation which falls across western, southern, and southeast Alaska annually. During the winter, and spring, Pacific storm systems bring Hawaii and the western United States most of their precipitation. Nor'easters moving down the East coast bring cold season precipitation to the Carolinas, Mid-Atlantic and New England states. Lake-effect snows add to precipitation potential downwind of the Great Lakes, as well as Great Salt Lake and the Finger Lakes during the cold season. The snow to liquid ratio across the contiguous United States averages 13:1, meaning 13 inches (330 mm) of snow melts down to 1 inch (25 mm) of water.
The United States tropical cyclone rainfall climatology concerns the amount of precipitation, primarily in the form of rain, which occurs during tropical cyclones and their extratropical cyclone remnants across the United States. Typically, five tropical cyclones and their remnants impact the country each year, contributing between a tenth and a quarter of the annual rainfall across the southern tier of the country. The highest rainfall amounts appear close to the coast, with lesser amounts falling farther inland. Obstructions to the precipitation pattern, such as the Appalachian mountains, focus higher amounts from northern Georgia through New England. While most impacts occur with systems moving in from the Atlantic ocean or Gulf of Mexico, some emanate from the eastern Pacific ocean, with a few crossing Mexico before impacting the Southwest. Those making landfall within the Southeast portion of the country tend to have the greatest potential for heavy rains.
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.
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.
Hurricane Kenneth was the strongest and longest-tracked hurricane of the 2005 Pacific hurricane season. The eleventh named storm and fifth hurricane of the season, Kenneth developed from a disturbance in the Intertropical Convergence Zone to the southwest of Mexico on September 14. It quickly attained peak winds of 135 mph (215 km/h) on September 18, before weakening due to increased wind shear and turning to a southwest drift. After weakening to tropical storm status, Kenneth attained a steady west-northwest motion and encountered favorable enough conditions for it to gain power and attain hurricane status on September 25. The cyclone again weakened as its motion halted, and on September 30 Kenneth dissipated a short distance off the Big Island of Hawaii. The remnants of Kenneth produced one of the highest rainfall totals in Hawaii, reaching up to 12 inches (305 mm) on Oahu. The rainfall caused flooding, though no major damage was reported.
Hurricane Alma was the first of three consecutively named storms to make landfall on the Pacific coast of Mexico during a ten-day span in June 1996. Alma was the third tropical cyclone, first named storm and first hurricane of the 1996 Pacific hurricane season. It is believed that the storm originated out of an Atlantic tropical wave which crossed Central America in the middle of June. In warmer than average waters of the open Pacific, it gradually organized and it was first designated as a tropical depression on June 20 before quickly intensifying to a tropical storm. Early on June 22 the storm was upgraded to a hurricane and subsequently reached peak intensity of 969 mb, a Category 2 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. Alma made landfall on Mexico's shoreline, but it soon moved back out over water and began to weaken. Alma had severe impact in Mexico. Twenty deaths were reported. Damage is unknown.