Environmental interactions during the extreme rain event associated with ex-tropical cyclone Oswald (2013)

Leroux, Marie-Dominique ; Nguyen-Hankinson, Mai C. ; Davidson, Noel E. ; Callaghan, Jeffrey ; Tory, Kevin ; Wain, Alan ; Huang, Xinmei

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<p align=justify>Tropical cyclone (TC) Oswald made landfall over north-east Australia as a minimal or Category 1 TC on the Australian scale on 21 January 2013. As it moved southward, it intensified over land and produced extreme rainfall for nearly 7 days. Tornadoes were reported and confirmed. Tragically, seven people died and insurance estimates were ~$1 billion. It is demonstrated that the event was associated with an interaction between the ex-Oswald circulation and an amplifying Rossby wave, which propagated north-eastward from high latitudes. Diagnoses showed that as the wave amplified and broke, a potential vorticity (PV) anomaly (PVA) extended to mid-levels, moved equatorward, merged with or axisymmetrised the ex-Oswald circulation through mid-levels. Backward trajectories from locations regularly scattered within the mid-level circulation illustrated that the storm transitioned from an isolated vortex into a circulation which was strongly influenced by its environment for at least 5 days. During this interaction, PV was advected from the environment towards the storm through mid-levels. The heavy rain coincided with the commencement and maintenance of this PV injection. The PV injection is quantified and shown to be consistent with PV advection by the mean radial flow. In addition, eddy angular momentum convergence in the mid- to upper levels coincided with an intensification of the circulation through this region. This was first related to outward transport of anticyclonic momentum by the asymmetric outflow at upper levels, followed by inward transport of cyclonic momentum by the asymmetric inflow. It is shown that the environmental interaction had an impact on vortex structure changes, rainfall and tornado development. We propose that the environmental processes influenced the ascent within the storm (1) via differential vorticity advection and baroclinic forcing, as the mid- to upper level PVA approached the circulation and (2) by low- to mid-level warm air advection.</p>
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