They are called hurricanes in the Atlantic, typhoons in the West Pacific, and tropical cyclones worldwide; but wherever these storms roam, the forces that determine their severity now are a little less mysterious. NASA scientists, using data from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite, have found "hot tower" clouds are associated with tropical cyclone intensification.
AN UNUSUALLY DEEP CONVECTIVE TOWER IN HURRICANE BONNIE AS BONNIE INTENSIFIED
This TRMM Precipitation Radar overflight of Hurricane Bonnie shows an 11 mile high "tower" cloud perched on the eyewall of the storm. Bonnie was observed on August 22, 1998, a few days before it struck North Carolina. The 3D volume represents the raining region inside the clouds of the hurricane. This 3D volume contains all of the locations where the rain rate was at least 0.08 inches per hour. The eye and eyewall are labeled on the image of surface rain rate. Cyclone intensification may be associated with the presence a tower cloud in the cyclones eyewall. CREDIT: NASA / JAXA
Owen Kelley and John Stout of NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., and George Mason University will present their findings at the American Meteorological Society annual meeting in Seattle on Monday, January 12.
Kelley and Stout define a "hot tower" as a rain cloud that reaches at least to the top of the troposphere, the lowest layer of the atmosphere. It extends approximately nine miles (14.5 km) high in the tropics. These towers are called "hot" because they rise to such altitude due to the large amount of latent heat. Water vapor releases this latent heat as it condenses into liquid.
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