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Impact of SST and surface waves on Hurricane Florence (2018): A coupled modeling investigation

May 27, 2021

Hurricane Florence (2018) devastated the coastal communities of the Carolinas through heavy rainfall that resulted in massive flooding. Florence was characterized by an abrupt reduction in intensity (Saffir-Simpson Category 4 to Category 1) just prior to landfall and synoptic-scale interactions that stalled the storm over the Carolinas for several days. We conducted a series of numerical modeling experiments in coupled and uncoupled configurations to examine the impact of sea surface temperature (SST) and ocean waves on storm characteristics. In addition to experiments using a fully coupled atmosphere-ocean-wave model, we introduced the capability of the atmospheric model to modulate wind stress and surface fluxes by oceanwaves through data from an uncoupled wave model. We examined these experiments by comparing track, intensity, strength, SST, storm structure, wave height, surface roughness, heat fluxes, and precipitation in order to determine the impacts of resolving ocean conditions with varying degrees of coupling. We found differences in the storm’s intensity and strength, with the best correlation coefficient of intensity (r=0.89) and strength (r=0.95) coming from the fully-coupled simulations. Further analysis into surface roughness parameterizations added to the atmospheric model revealed differences in the spatial distribution and magnitude of the largest roughness lengths. Adding ocean andwave features to the model further modified the fluxes due to more realistic cooling beneath the stormwhich in turn modified the precipitation field. Our experiments highlight significant differences in how air-sea processes impact hurricane modeling. The storm characteristics of track, intensity, strength, and precipitation at landfall are crucial to predictability and forecasting of future landfalling hurricanes.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2021
Title Impact of SST and surface waves on Hurricane Florence (2018): A coupled modeling investigation
DOI 10.1175/WAF-D-20-0171.1
Authors Joseph Zambon, Ruoying He, John C. Warner, Christie Hegermiller
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Weather and Forecasting
Index ID 70223137
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center