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

Weather and Forecasting
By: , and 



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.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Impact of SST and surface waves on Hurricane Florence (2018): A coupled modeling investigation
Series title Weather and Forecasting
DOI 10.1175/WAF-D-20-0171.1
Volume 36
Issue 5
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher American Meteorological Society
Contributing office(s) Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 22 p.
First page 1713
Last page 1734
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