Feb. 13, 2023

CAOS Ph.D. student Mu-Hua Chien, professor Olivier M. Pauluis, and coauthors recently published a paper investigating the emergence and sensitivity of hurricane-like vortices in a numerical simulation of an idealized atmospheric system.

In their study, the complicated thermodynamics of water vapor is simplified. The remaining system can still produce a conditionally unstable atmosphere in which unsaturated air parcels experience a stable stratification, and saturated parcels experience an unstable one. They use the numerical solver developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Labotorary to solve the governing equations. The numerical simulation shows the characteristics of moist convection and is applied to explore the variability of moist convection under climate change. More specifically, their simulations reach a quasi-equilibrium state with the convective clouds separated by large unsaturated regions. For the simulations without rotation, convection aggregates into active convective patches. The presence of rotation helps convection organize into hurricane-like vortices with the characteristics of tropical cyclones in Earth's atmosphere. Surprisingly, this simplified model is sufficient to capture the formation and maintenance of hurricane-like vortices.