Observed tropical cyclone size revisited

Daniel R. Chavas, Ning Lin, Wenhao Dong, Yanluan Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


This work revisits the statistics of observed tropical cyclone outer size in the context of recent advances in our theoretical understanding of the storm wind field. The authors create a new dataset of the radius of 12 m s-1 winds based on a recently updated version of the QuikSCAT ocean wind vector database and apply an improved analytical outer wind model to estimate the outer radius of vanishing wind. The dataset is then applied to analyze the statistical distributions of the two size metrics as well as their dependence on environmental parameters, with a specific focus on testing recently identified parameters possessing credible theoretical relationships with tropical cyclone size. The ratio of the potential intensity to the Coriolis parameter is found to perform poorly in explaining variation of size, with the possible exception of its upper bound, the latter of which is in line with existing theory. The rotating radiative-convective equilibrium scaling of Khairoutdinov and Emanuel is also found to perform poorly. Meanwhile, mean storm size is found to increase systematically with the relative sea surface temperature, in quantitative agreement with the results of a recent study of storm size based on precipitation area. Implications of these results are discussed in the context of existing tropical climate theory. Finally, an empirical dependence of the central pressure deficit on outer size is found in line with past work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2923-2939
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


  • Applications
  • Atm/Ocean structure/ Phenomena
  • Circulation/ Dynamics
  • Hurricanes
  • Hurricanes/typhoons
  • Hurricanes/typhoons
  • Physical meteorology and climatology
  • Risk assessment
  • Tropical cyclones
  • Tropical variability
  • Variability


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