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New study provides better understanding

New study provides better understanding

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Satellite imagery from September 28, 2021 shows increasing cloud cover and thunderstorm activity off the coast of Africa. This increased thunderstorm activity was intensified by an atmospheric Kelvin wave (the approximate location of the Kelvin wave is circled in the image). A few hours after this image was taken, the Kelvin wave also helped spawn Tropical Storm Victor. This event was one of the Kelvin wave formations simulated in this study.

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Source: NASA Worldview.

Miami, FL – In a groundbreaking meteorological study, an international team of researchers from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Sciences, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF; Reading, UK), and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR; Boulder, CO) is advancing the scientific understanding of atmospheric waves in the tropics, including how they influence extreme weather events such as hurricanes and heavy rainfall.

The collaborative research team focused on a particular type of atmospheric waves known as Convectively Coupled Kelvin Waves (CCKW), which are giant waves more than 1,000 miles long that travel along the equator in the Earth’s atmosphere and significantly influence global rainfall patterns. The study, published June 1, 2024, states American Geophysical Union Magazine Advances in Earth Systems ModelingIt offers researchers a new way to study the behavior and properties of Kelvin waves in weather forecast models.

“Our findings suggest that improving the simulation of these Kelvin waves in weather models could increase the accuracy of forecasts for other high-impact weather features,” said Quinton Lawton, a recent graduate of the Rosenstiel School’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences and lead author of the study. “This has the potential to provide communities, especially in tropical regions, with greater preparedness and readiness for catastrophic weather.”

Using NCAR’s high-performance computing system and state-of-the-art weather models, including the Model for Interscale Prediction – Atmosphere (MPAS-A) and ECMWF’s Integrated Forecast System (IFS), the team simulated several Kelvin waves from 2021. One notable Kelvin wave over the Atlantic Ocean was linked to the formation of Tropical Storm Victor.

The study found that current weather forecast models inadequately simulate the Atlantic Ocean CCKW, and future improvements to weather forecast systems are needed to better predict these waves and thus other extreme weather events.

Researchers have introduced a new methodology for manipulating the strength of Kelvin waves in weather forecast models. With this new tool, researchers will be able to better quantify the properties and effects of Kelvin waves and improve our understanding of how these waves are represented in weather forecast models.

Kelvin waves are now recognized for their role in increasing the likelihood of hurricane formation and triggering extreme precipitation events. previous study A study by Rosenstiel School scientists Lawton and Sharan Majumdar, due out in 2023, describes how these waves could encourage tropical cyclone formation in the Atlantic.

This study represents the culmination of two years of collaborative research stemming from the lead student author’s doctoral dissertation at the University of Miami. The work brings together expertise and resources from UM, NCAR, and ECMWF to push the boundaries of meteorological science.

“The research is a step toward better understanding and predicting the tropical atmosphere,” said study co-author Sharan Majumdar, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the Rosenstiel School. “The study also highlights the need for further investigation into why current models have difficulty accurately simulating these waves.”


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