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An evaluation of thermodynamic estimates of climatological maximum potential tropical cyclone intensity


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Tonkin, H, Holland, GJ, Holbrook, NJ and Henderson-Sellers, A 2000 , 'An evaluation of thermodynamic estimates of climatological maximum potential tropical cyclone intensity' , Monthly Weather Review, vol. 128, no. 3 , pp. 746-762 , doi: 10.1175/1520-0493(2000)128<0746:AEOTEO>2.0.CO;2.

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This paper investigates the performance of two recently developed thermodynamic models of maximum tropical
cyclone intensity (K. A. Emanuel’s referred to here as E1 and G. J. Holland’s referred to here as H1), which
are designed to estimate the most intense storm possible given the ambient environmental conditions. The study
involves estimating the maximum potential tropical cyclone intensity (MPI) from climatological information in
three ocean regions, where relatively reliable atmospheric soundings and tropical cyclone intensity data exist.
The monthly MPI was estimated for 28 locations across the northwest Pacific, southwest Pacific, and North
Atlantic Ocean regions. Empirically derived relationships between observed maximum storm intensity and sea
surface temperature were also utilized in the examination of regional MPI model performance.
Derived MPIs generally agreed well with observed maximum intensities during the tropical cyclone season.
The H1 model tended to underestimate the maximum intensity of storms early and late in the tropical cyclone
season and at stations between 108 and 208N in the northwest Pacific, where the effect of continental air led to
weak model estimates for the given surface energy conditions. Additionally, extremely intense H1 estimates
were predicted at some stations in the Australian/southwest Pacific region where particularly unstable atmospheric
conditions and low ambient surface pressure values are observed. These features of model performance are
largely due to the sensitivity of H1 to warm environmental upper-level temperatures. The E1 model displayed
a poor seasonality, frequently predicting the occurrence of storms during winter months. Emanuel MPI estimates
were at times underestimated for stations in the North Atlantic and northwest Pacific. The E1 model estimates
in the northwest Pacific were affected by particularly warm upper-level conditions, while relatively high ambient
surface pressures in the North Atlantic at 258N lead to MPI estimates, which are weaker than observed in this

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Tonkin, H and Holland, GJ and Holbrook, NJ and Henderson-Sellers, A
Journal or Publication Title: Monthly Weather Review
DOI / ID Number: 10.1175/1520-0493(2000)128<0746:AEOTEO>2.0.CO;2
Additional Information:

Copyright 2000 American Meteorological Society.

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