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Some studies have suggested that the Saharan Air Layer (SAL) has a positive influence on tropical cyclogenesis and evolution while others have argued that it has a negative influence. Many NAMMA investigators came away from the field program impressed by the prevalence of dust and convinced of the large role of the SAL in suppressing hurricane development. But is this emphasis on the SAL warranted? Is the impact of the SAL on cyclogenesis positive or negative? We will use data from a suite of instruments on NASA satellites including TRMM, MODIS, and AIRS for the period 2003-2007 to examine the evolution of SAL outbreaks and their relationship to tropical cyclogenesis and evolution. In addition, we will use large-scale analyses from NASA's GEOS-5 analysis system to relate the remotely sensed data to the large-scale wind fields over the Atlantic. Since data from MODIS and AIRS are not available within cloudy regions, we will use field program data from TCSP and NAMMA to look within selected cloud systems to determine the extent to which SAL air penetrates into the core of developing storms. If the SAL's impacts are indeed negative, then an interesting problem arises in that some storms, when surrounded by dry SAL air, are still able to intensify. How is this the case? Montgomery and collaborators recently proposed a "marsupial" hypothesis in which storms reside within a protective pouch of atmosphere and therefore can be shielded from negative influences in their environment. Using satellite and field observations, along with numerical modeling, we will investigate the processes that allow intensification despite seemingly hostile environmental conditions. We will also investigate issues related to predictability of SAL-tropical cyclone interaction.
Project PI: Scott Braun/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
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