Using Simple Models To Understand Hurricane Dynamics

Prof. Timothy Cronin

Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Monday November 6, 2023, 2 PM ET



Hurricanes are beautiful yet destructive storms with complex multiscale dynamics including turbulent moist convection and a rich set of air-sea interaction processes. Despite their complexity, a great deal about hurricanes has been learned, and remains to be learned, from simple models. In this talk, I will review recent progress from several projects aiming to understand fundamentals about hurricane behavior using simplified numerical models and theory. First, I will discuss how idealized numerical simulations show that moisture is not essential for hurricane-like storms in general, though it plays a key role in their structure and is likely essential in Earth’s current climate. Second, I will leverage these results to show that hurricane-like vortices can emerge in setups as simple as Rayleigh-Benard convection — provided that rotation is included and that thermal boundary conditions are tweaked slightly from the conventional choice of fixed-temperature plates. Third, I will present an analytic solution to the outer wind model of Emanuel (2004) which applies far from the center of a storm, and describe the implications for how hurricane size and wind speeds may covary with climate warming.



Tim Cronin is an Associate Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT. He and his group combine theory and idealized numerical modeling experiments to understand the dynamics of Earth’s atmosphere and the stability of the climate system. Prof. Cronin has worked on a wide range of subjects in atmospheric and climate sciences, ranging from understanding the basic state of the high latitude atmosphere and its sensitivity to global change, to rainfall extremes and convective organization in the Tropics, to the physics of the runaway greenhouse in worlds with different atmospheric composition. He received his PhD from MIT in 2014 and was a NOAA Global Change postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University from 2014-2016.



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Nov 06 2023


John Xun Yang