The Impact of a Warm Ocean Eddy on Typhoon Morakot (2009): A Preliminary Study from Satellite Observations and Numerical Modelling



On 6 August 2009, typhoon Morakot encountered a giant warm ocean eddy approximately 700 km by 500 km in the southern eddy rich zone of the western North Pacific Ocean. Soon after passing over the warm ocean eddy, Morakot reached its peak intensity at category 2. Results based on multiple satellite observations and numerical modelling suggest very favourable ocean conditions provided by the warm ocean eddy during this earlier developmental stage of Morakot. It is found that in the presence of the observed warm ocean eddy, the upper ocean heat content increased significantly by ~100%, from ~60 to 120 KJ cm-2. This very deep and warm subsurface temperature effectively reduced the negative feedback of typhoon-induced ocean cooling. As a result, the during-storm sea surface temperature remained high at ~29 - 30°C. This very warm during-typhoon sea surface temperature (SST) provided an increase in air-sea enthalpy flux supply by ~200% (i.e., ~500 W m-2 under the warm eddy situation .vs. the ~170 W m-2 under the without eddy situation). Also, since the during-typhoon SST remained high, the moisture supply was increased to enhance convective activities. Numerical experiments using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model suggest that the presence of the warm ocean eddy does not change the overall structure or characteristics of Morakot. Rather, it contributes to a ~10% increase in Morakot’s precipitation. This research shows that in addition to the favourable atmospheric conditions such as the Intra-Seasonal Oscillation or the southwestern monsoon flow, there also exist favourable ocean conditions provided by the presence of a warm ocean eddy during the early developmental stage of Morakot. Further studies based on a full-physics typhoon-ocean coupled model are needed to quantify the role of the upper ocean features in affecting the evolution of Morakot, including its rainfall over Taiwan.

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