Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics

, Volume 131, Issue 6, pp 1635–1659 | Cite as

The generation and maintenance of hollow PV towers in a forced primitive equation model

  • Gabriel J. WilliamsJr.Email author
Original Paper


Diabatic heating from deep moist convection in the hurricane eyewall produces a towering annular structure of elevated potential vorticity (PV), known as a hollow PV tower. For sufficiently thin annular structures, eddies can extract energy from the mean flow, leading to hollow tower breakdown with significant changes in vortex structure and intensity. A forced primitive equation model in normalized isentropic coordinates is used to understand the role of diabatic heating in the generation, maintenance, and breakdown of the hurricane PV tower. It is shown that the generation of hollow PV towers is due to the combined effects of diabatic heating and the radial and vertical PV advection associated with the induced secondary circulation of the vortex. If the diabatic forcing makes the eyewall thin enough, then the PV tower can become dynamically unstable and cause air parcels with high PV to be mixed preferentially into the eye at lower levels, where unstable PV wave growth rates are largest. The breakdown of the hollow PV tower leads to a transient break in vortex intensification, a decrease in minimum central pressure, and an inward shift and tilt of absolute angular momentum surface. It is shown that the maintenance of the PV tower structure depends on the strength of the heating-induced secondary circulation and the interaction between diabatic heating and barotropic instability.



The calculations were made on Linux workstations generously provided from the College of Charleston. The funding from this work comes from the College of Charleston. I would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their penetrating and honest reviews, which has substantially improved the quality of this paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.


  1. Brankovic C (1981) A transformed isentropic coordinate and its use in an atmospheric model. Mon Wea Rev 109:2029–2039Google Scholar
  2. Charney JG, Phillips NA (1953) Numerical integration of the quasi-geostrophic equations for barotropic and simple baroclinic flow. J. Meteorol. 10:71–99Google Scholar
  3. Chen Y, Yau MK (2001) Spiral bands in a simulated hurricane. Part I: Vortex Rossby wave verification. J Atmos Sci 58:2128–2145Google Scholar
  4. Dunion JP, Marron CS (2008) A reexamination of the Jordan mean tropical sounding based on awareness of the Saharan air layer: results from 2002. J. Climate 21:5242–5253Google Scholar
  5. Gao C, Zhu P (2016) Vortex Rossby wave propagation in baroclinic tropical cyclone-like vortices. Geo Res Let 43:12578–12589Google Scholar
  6. Hack JJ, Schubert WH (1986) Nonlinear response of atmospheric vortices to heating by organized cumulus convection. J Atmos Sci 43:1559–1573Google Scholar
  7. Hausman SA, Ooyama KV, Schubert WH (2006) Potential vorticity structure of simulated hurricanes. J Atmos Sci 63:87–108Google Scholar
  8. Hendricks EA, Schubert WH (2010) Schubert adiabatic rearrangement of hollow PV towers. J Adv Model Earth Syst 2:1–19Google Scholar
  9. Hendricks EA, Montgomery MT, Davis CA (2004) The role of “vertical” hot towers in the formation of Tropical Cyclone Diana (1984). J Atmos Sci 61:1209–1232Google Scholar
  10. Hendricks EA, Schubert WH, Taft RK, Wang H, Kossin JP (2009) Lifecycles of hurricane-like vorticity rings. J Atmos Sci 66:705–722Google Scholar
  11. Hendricks EA, McNoldy BD, Schubert WH (2012) Observed inner-core structural variability in Hurricane Dolly (2008). Mon Weather Rev 140:4066–4077Google Scholar
  12. Hendricks EA, Schubert WH, Chen Y-H, Kuo H-C (2014) Hurricane eyewall evolution in a forced shallow-water model. J Atmos Sci 71:1623–1643Google Scholar
  13. Hoskins BJ, McIntyre ME, Robertson AW (1985) On the use and significance of isentropic potential vorticity maps. Quart J Roy Meteorol Soc 111:877–946Google Scholar
  14. Hsu Y-J, Arakawa A (1990) Numerical modeling of the atmosphere with an isentropic vertical coordinate. Mon Weather Rev 118:1933–1959Google Scholar
  15. Kasahara A (1974) Various vertical coordinate systems used for numerical weather prediction. Mon Wea Rev 102:509–522Google Scholar
  16. Kossin JP, Eastin MD (2001) Two distinct regimes in the kinematic and thermodynamic structure of the hurricane eye and eyewall. J Atmos Sci 58:1079–1090Google Scholar
  17. Kossin JP, Schubert WH (2001) Mesovortices, polygonal flow patterns, and rapid pressure falls in hurricane-like vortices. J Atmos Sci 58:2196–2209Google Scholar
  18. Kossin JP, Schubert WH (2004) Mesovortices in hurricane Isabel. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 85:151–153Google Scholar
  19. Kossin JP, McNoldy BD, Schubert WH (2002) Vortical swirls in hurricane eye clouds. Mon Weather Rev 130:3144–3149Google Scholar
  20. Kwon Y, Frank WM (2005) Dynamic instabilities of simulated hurricane-like vortices and their impacts on the core structure of hurricanes. Part I: Dry experiments. J Atmos Sci 62:3955–3973Google Scholar
  21. Kwon Y, Frank WM (2008) Dynamic instabilities of simulated hurricane-like vortices and their impacts on the core structure of hurricanes. Part II: Moist experiments. J Atmos Sci 65:106–122Google Scholar
  22. Menelaou K, Lau MK (2014) On the role of asymmetric convective bursts to the problem of hurricane intensification: radiation of vortex Rossby waves and wave-mean flow interactions. J Atmos Sci 71:2057–2058Google Scholar
  23. Menelaou K, Yau MK, Martinez Y (2013a) Impact of asymmetric dynamical processes on the structure and intensity change of two-dimensional hurricane-like annular vortices. J Atmos Sci 70:559–582Google Scholar
  24. Menelaou K, Yau MK, Martinez Y (2013b) On the origin and impact of a polygonal eyewall in the rapid intensification of Hurricane Wilma (2005). J Atmos Sci 70:3839–3858Google Scholar
  25. Montgomery MT, Kallenbach RJ (1997) A theory for vortex Rossby waves and its application to spiral bands and intensity changes in hurricanes. Quart J R Meteorol Soc 123:435–465Google Scholar
  26. Montgomery MT, Vladimirov VA, Denissenko PV (2002) An experimental study on hurricane mesovortices. J Fluid Mech 471:1–32Google Scholar
  27. Montgomery MT, Nicholls ME, Cram TA, Saunders AB (2006) A vertical hot tower route to tropical cyclogenesis. J Atmos Sci 63:355–386Google Scholar
  28. Nguyen CM, Reeder MJ, Davidson NE, Smith RK, Montgomery MT (2011) Inner-core vacillation cycles during the intensification of Hurricane Katrina. Q J R Meteorol Soc 137:829–844Google Scholar
  29. Nolan DS, Montgomery MT (2000) The algebraic growth of wavenumber one disturbances in hurricane-like vortices. J Atmos Sci 57:3514–3538Google Scholar
  30. Nolan DS, Montgomery MT (2002) Nonhydrostatic, three-dimensional perturbations to balanced, hurricane-like vortices. Part I: Linearized formulation, stability, and evolution. J Atmos Sci 59:2989–3020Google Scholar
  31. Nolan DS, Moon Y, Stern DP (2007) Tropical cyclone intensification from asymmetric convection: energetics and efficiency. J Atmos Sci 64:3377–3405Google Scholar
  32. Reasor PD, Montgomery MT, Marks FD, Gamache JF (2000) Low-wavenumber structure and evolution of the hurricane inner core observed by airborne dual-Doppler radar. Mon Weather Rev 128:1653–1680Google Scholar
  33. Rodgers EB, Olson WS, Karyampudi VM, Pierce HF (1998) Satellite-derived latent heating distribution and environmental influences in Hurricane Opal (1995). Mon Weather Rev 126:1229–1247Google Scholar
  34. Rozoff CM, Schubert WH, McNoldy BD, Kossin JP (2006) Rapid filamentation zones in intense tropical cyclones. J Atmos Sci 63:325–340Google Scholar
  35. Rozoff CM, Kossin JP, Schubert WH, Mulero PJ (2009) Internal control of hurricane intensity: the dual nature of potential vorticity mixing. J Atmos Sci 66:133–147Google Scholar
  36. Schubert WH, Montgomery MT, Taft RK, Guinn TA, Fulton SR, Kossin JP, Edwards JP (1999) Polygonal eyewalls, asymmetric eye contraction, and potential vorticity mixing in hurricanes. J Atmos Sci 56:1197–1223Google Scholar
  37. Terwey WD, Montgomery MT (2002) Wavenumber-2 and wavenumber-m vortex Rossby wave instabilities in a generalized three-region model. J Atmos Sci 59:2421–2427Google Scholar
  38. Wang Y, Holland GL (1995) On the interaction of tropical cyclone scale vortices. IV: Baroclinic vortices. Q J R Meteorol Soc 121:95–126Google Scholar
  39. Willoughby HE, Clos JA, Shoreibah MG (1982) Concentric eye walls, secondary wind maxima, and the evolution of the hurricane vortex. J Atmos Sci 39:395–411Google Scholar
  40. Wu C-C, Cheng H-J, Wang Y, Chou K-H (2009) A numerical investigation of the eyewall evolution of a landfalling typhoon. Mon Weather Rev 137:21–40Google Scholar
  41. Wu C-C, Wu S-N, Wei H-H, Abarca SF (2016) The role of convective heating in tropical cyclone eyewall ring evolution. J Atmos Sci 73:319–330Google Scholar
  42. Yang B, Wang Y, Wang B (2007) The effect of internally generated inner-core asymmetries on tropical cyclone potential intensity. J Atmos Sci 64:1165–1188Google Scholar
  43. Yau MK, Liu Y, Zhang D-L, Chen Y (2004) A multiscale numerical study of Hurricane Andrew (1992). Part VI: Small-scale inner-core structures and wind streaks. Mon Weather Rev 132:1410–1433Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physics and AstronomyCollege of CharlestonCharlestonUSA

Personalised recommendations