Aircraft Observations of Tropical Cyclone Boundary Layer Turbulence over the South China Sea


There have been no high-frequency aircraft observations of tropical cyclone (TC) eyewall boundary layer turbulence since two flights into Atlantic hurricanes in the 1980s. We present an analysis of the first TC boundary layer flight observations in the South China Sea by the Hong Kong Observatory comprising four eyewall penetrations. We derive the vertical flux of momentum and vertical momentum diffusivity from observed turbulence parameters. We observe negative (upward) vertical fluxes of tangential momentum near the eyewall consistent with a jet below the flight level near the radius of maximum wind. Our observations of vertical momentum diffusivity support a superlinear relationship between diffusivity and wind speed at the high wind speeds in the inner-core of TCs (power-law exponent of 1.73 ± 0.20) while the few existing boundary layer hurricane observations in the North Atlantic suggest a more linear relationship.

Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences