The intensification of tropical cyclones involves a combination of different atmospheric conditions such as atmospheric trough interactions and vertical wind shear, which lead to conducive outflow conditions aloft. Increased outflow enhances inflow conditions at the surface. As this process continues throughout the storm, the upper ocean provides heat energy to the overlying atmospheric boundary layer and for the deepening process.
Initially, scientists perceived the upper ocean thermal structure as a marginal parameter in tropical cyclone intensification. However, after observing a series of tropical cyclones that suddenly intensified when they passed over oceanic warm features, it is now speculated that ocean heat energy plays a more significant role.
While the interaction of cyclones with these rings and eddies is in the very early stages of research, preliminary results show their importance in the intensification of Hurricane Opal (Shay et al, 2000). Subsequently, upper ocean thermal structure is now a key element in the study of hurricane-ocean interactions and resulting tropical cyclone intensification. These warm features, primarily anti-cyclonic rings and eddies shed by the Loop Current in the Gulf of Mexico, are characterized by a deepening of several tens of meters of the isotherms towards the center of the features, with different temperature and salinity structure than the surrounding waters.
Tropical Cyclones and the Upper Ocean
Satellite Derived Oceanic Heat Content for Cyclone Studies
March 25-26, 2010. Hyderabad, India