Relationship of environmental relative humidity with North Atlantic tropical cyclone intensity and intensification rate

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Abstract

[1] Quantifying the relationship of large-scale environmental conditions such as relative humidity with hurricane intensity and intensity change is important for statistical hurricane intensity forecasts. Our composite analysis of 9 years of Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) humidity data spanning 198 Atlantic tropical cyclones (TCs) shows that environmental relative humidity (ERH) above the boundary layer generally decreases with time as TCs evolve. Near the surface, ERH stays approximately constant. ERH generally increases with increasing TC intensity and intensification rate. Rapidly intensifying TCs are associated with free tropospheric ERH more than 10% (relative to the averaged ERH for all TCs) larger than that for weakening TCs. Substantial azimuthal asymmetry in ERH is also found, especially for the TCs attaining the highest intensities and largest intensification rates at distances greater than 400 km away from the TC center. In the front-right quadrant relative to TC motion, rapid intensification is associated with a sharp gradient of ERH in the upper troposphere, with a decrease from the near to the far environment between 400 hPa and 300 hPa. The ERH gradient weakens with the decrease of intensification rate. This radial ERH gradient might be a useful predictor for the statistical forecast of TC intensification.

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