A Simple Method for Simulating Wind Profiles in the Boundary Layer of Tropical Cyclones

Julie Lundquist, George Bryan, Rochelle Worsnop, Jun Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus Citations


A method to simulate characteristics of wind speed in the boundary layer of tropical cyclones in an idealized manner is developed and evaluated. The method can be used in a single-column modelling set-up with a planetary boundary-layer parametrization, or within large-eddy simulations (LES). The key step is to include terms in the horizontal velocity equations representing advection and centrifugal acceleration in tropical cyclones that occurs on scales larger than the domain size. Compared to other recently developed methods, which require two input parameters (a reference wind speed, and radius from the centre of a tropical cyclone) this new method also requires a third input parameter: the radial gradient of reference wind speed. With the new method, simulated wind profiles are similar to composite profiles from dropsonde observations; in contrast, a classic Ekman-type method tends to overpredict inflow-layer depth and magnitude, and two recently developed methods for tropical cyclone environments tend to overpredict near-surface wind speed. When used in LES, the new technique produces vertical profiles of total turbulent stress and estimated eddy viscosity that are similar to values determined from low-level aircraft flights in tropical cyclones. Temporal spectra from LES produce an inertial subrange for frequencies >/~0.1 Hz, but only when the horizontal grid spacing >/~20 m.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)475-502
Number of pages28
JournalBoundary-Layer Meteorology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5000-67445


  • boundary-layer dynamics
  • large-eddy simulation
  • single-column modelling
  • tropical cyclone


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