Modeling studies of impacts from the Guinea Highlands in relation to tropical cyclogenesis along the West African coast
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Numerical simulations of three separate events of tropical cyclogenesis (TC-genesis) off the West African coast between the years of 2006 and 2008 were performed. The purpose of this study was to investigate the processes that take place during the transition of an African easterly wave (AEW) and any associated mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) as they progress from continental West Africa into the maritime environment of the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Three tropical cyclones that were associated with AEWs and related MCSs over continental West Africa that progressed off the coast, later achieving at least tropical storm (TS) strength, were selected to be investigated. The three tropical cyclones were: TS Debby (2006), Hurricane Helene (2006), and TS Josephine (2008). The Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model was utilized to conduct numerical model simulations beginning 72 h prior to each system’s AEW being classified as a tropical depression (TD). Results demonstrated that the model was able to recapture the evolution of each MCS in association with AEWs during all three events. The sensitivity experiments of the impact of topography (i.e., Guinea Highlands) suggested that the elevation of the Guinea Highlands plays a significant role in relation to TC-genesis, even though the highest peaks of the Guinea Highlands are only approximately 1,300 m. Simulation results supported that topographical blocking and northwest deflection of strong southwest winds from the Atlantic played an important role in the enhancement of low-level cyclonic circulation. Without the presence of the Highlands, wind speeds associated with each circulation by simulation’s end were either weaker or the simulation failed to generate a circulation completely. As the MCSs developed along the coast, they became phase locked in the downstream flow of an AEW as it exited the West African coast. The MCS in each event acted as a catalyst for TC-genesis with the associated AEW. Without the Guinea Highlands, the MCS features were either weakened or failed to develop, thus hindering TC-genesis for these three cases.
KeywordsTropical Cyclone Potential Vorticity Tropical Storm Cyclonic Circulation Radar Reflectivity
The critical reviews of two anonymous reviewers were very helpful. We acknowledge the suppliers of datasets employed in this research. The first author was a MS graduate student at the Florida Institute of Technology working with the second author when this research was initiated. Computations were performed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation Grants AGS-0855286.
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