Regional Differences in the Spatial Patterns of Precipitation Bands in Hurricanes Through Landfall along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Coasts of the United States

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Virginia Tech


Evolutionary periods of precipitation distribution in tropical cyclones (TCs) are sometimes misrepresented in numerical weather prediction models due to the rapid nature of TC structure changes that accompany intensity change. To better understand quantitative changes in TC rainband structure around landfall, I quantify the spatial distribution of precipitation in 62 landfalling TCs along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts of the U.S. between 1998 and 2014. The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) 3B42 product is utilized to assess three spatial measures of precipitation: 1) area, 2) closure, and 3) dispersion. Calculations are made using two rain rate thresholds, 0.254mm/hr and 5mm/hr, to capture and compare changes in light and heavy precipitation, respectively. Changes in TC precipitation are statistically different based on landfall location along the Atlantic vs. Gulf. Overall, dispersion (measure of centrality) is the most dissimilar metric due to variability between 0.254mm/hr and 5mm/hr results. Lighter precipitation decreases in area and expands away from the TC center, while heavier precipitation contracts rather than disperses in Gulf landfalling storms. A k-means clustering produces six landfall regions and reinforces the result of heavier precipitation becoming more central along the Gulf, while Atlantic landfalling storms exhibit decreased centrality. Significant differences were not found in storms that undergo extratropical transition or dissipate later in lifecycle. The holistic approach exhibited by this study reveals wide variability among a large dataset of storms making landfall; therefore, sub-setting techniques are helpful to hurricane forecasters in understanding the role of landfall location.



tropical meteorology, precipitation, rainbands