Abstract

This study revisits the superintensity of tropical cyclones (TCs), which is defined as the excess maximum surface wind speed normalized by the corresponding theoretical maximum potential intensity (MPI), based on ensemble axisymmetric numerical simulations, with the focus on the dependence of superintensity on the prescribed sea surface temperature (SST) and the initial environmental atmospheric sounding. Results show a robust decrease of superintensity with increasing SST regardless of being in experiments with an SST-independent initial atmospheric sounding or in those with the SST-dependent initial atmospheric soundings as in nature sorted for the western North Pacific and the North Atlantic. It is found that the increase in either convective activity (and thus diabatic heating) in the TC outer region or theoretical MPI or both with increasing SST could reduce the superintensity. For a given SST-independent initial atmospheric sounding, the strength of convective activity in the TC outer region increases rapidly with increasing SST due to the rapidly increasing air–sea thermodynamic disequilibrium (and thus potential convective instability) with increasing SST. As a result, the decrease of superintensity with increasing SST in the SST-independent sounding experiments is dominated by the increasing convective activity in the TC outer region and is much larger than that in the SST-dependent sounding experiments, and the TC intensity becomes sub-MPI at relatively high SSTs in the former. Due to the marginal increasing tendency of convective activity in the TC outer region, the decrease of superintensity in the latter is dominated by the increase in theoretical MPI with increasing SST.

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