Organized kinetic energy backscatter in the hurricane boundary layer from radar measurements





Citation of Original Publication

Sroka, Sydney; Guimond, Stephen; Organized kinetic energy backscatter in the hurricane boundary layer from radar measurements; Journal of Fluid Mechanics, Volume 924, 11 August, 2021;


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The fluid mechanics of hurricanes strongly depends on boundary layer energetics due to the warm-core nature of the system with peak velocities located at lower levels. One barrier that has inhibited a more complete characterization of energy transfer in the boundary layer is a lack of observations that resolve large, turbulent eddies. In particular, the occurrence and structure of upscale energy transfer (backscatter) in the hurricane boundary layer as well as the effects of backscatter on the vortex intensity are unknown. The analysis presented here of very high-resolution, three-dimensional wind observations from Hurricane Rita (2005) at peak intensity reveals large regions of organized backscatter in the boundary layer associated with coherent, turbulent eddies. Strong forwardscatter is also found next to the backscatter regions due to the interaction between adjacent eddies. Two components of the stress tensor are primarily responsible for this alternating scatter structure, as shown by large correlation coefficients between the fields: the radial–vertical component (τ₁₃) and the azimuthal–vertical component (τ₂₃) with average correlations of 79 % and 49 %, respectively. The Leonard, Reynolds and cross-term stress components are also provided. The impact of the sub-filter-scale energy transfer is estimated by computing the kinetic energy budget for the resolved-scale and eddy-scale motions. The results show that the sub-filter-scale energy transfer term is of the same order as the other terms in the eddy-scale budgets, contributing between 16 % and 40 % to the local time tendency with an average contribution of approximately 30 %. These results indicate that the coherent turbulent eddies can affect the vortex dynamics through wave–wave nonlinear interactions, which can subsequently influence the wave–mean flow interactions. This is the first study to examine the full sub-filter-scale energy transfer and its impact on the kinetic energy budget in the hurricane boundary layer. These findings emphasize the importance of coherent turbulence in the energy cascade and have the potential to improve turbulence closure schemes used in numerical simulations.