, Volume 67, Issue 1-4, pp 37-69

The formation of tropical cyclones

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This paper attempts a synthesis of new observations and new concepts on how tropical cyclone formation occurs. Despite many worthy observational and numerical modeling studies in recent decades, our understanding of the detailed physical processes associated with the early stages of tropical cyclone formation is still inadequate; operational forecast skill is not very high. Although theoretical ideas cover a wide range of possibilities, results of new observations are helping us to narrow our search into more specific and relevant topic areas.

With 33 Figures
This paper is dedicated to Professor Herbert Riehl under whom I studied tropical meteorology at the University of Chicago from 1957–1961 and was later associated with at Colorado State University (CSU). Professor Riehl arranged my first aircraft flights into hurricanes in the late 1950s and gave great encouragment to me to explore the secrets of what causes a tropical disturbance to be transformed into a tropical storm.
Herbert would persist in asking me nearly every week or so “what causes a hurricane to form?” I and my graduate students and research colleagues at CSU have been working to uncover the secrets of tropical cyclone formation ever since. The following article gives my current best estimate of the primary physical processes involved with this topic.