Connections in the development of tropical cyclone Mitch (1998): A tribute to the human loss in this calamity

Ismael Pérez-García, Alejandro Aguilar-Sierra, Jaime Steven Hernández-Alfaro

Abstract

Tropical cyclone Mitch, which occurred in October 1998 on the Caribbean Sea, is studied. Mitch affected countries in Central America, where it caused great economic and human losses, and the authors believe that the scientific community has not paid enough attention to this phenomenon. Two NE-SE oriented dipole patterns associated with their convergence-divergence zones contributed significantly to its formation and intensification, which are analyzed from the observational synoptic point of view. The most remarkable characteristics of this phenomenon in the mean field occurred between October 18 and November 4, 1998 when another NW-SE dipolar pattern was formed, consisting of a high-level anticyclone from North America (HLA) and a high-level anticyclone from South America (HLC). To discern these patterns, two data sources were used: the NCAR-ds627.0 (ERA-Interim) reanalysis and the NCEP/NCAR reanalysis. The simplest idealization of the NW-SE dipolar vortex is a tropical modon, which is an exact solution of the barotropic vorticity equation (BVE) on a rotating sphere. The role of the HLA and the HLC in the excitation of tropical waves is explored using a numerical spectral method for sutdying the normal mode stability of exact solutions of the BVE. The initiation of the tropical wave at low levels could be associated with disturbances at high levels of the most unstable normal mode.

Keywords

Tropical cyclone Mitch; La Niña; transient connection patterns; tropical wave; barotropic vorticity equation; Verkley’s modon solution; normal mode instability

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