Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Meteorology and Physical Oceanography (Marine)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Shuyi Chen

Second Committee Member

Ben Kirtman

Third Committee Member

Robert Houze


Concentric eyewall formation and eyewall replacement cycles are intrinsic processes that determine the intensity of a tropical cyclone, as opposed to purely environmental factors such as wind shear or the ocean heat content. Although extensive research has been done in this area, there is not a single widely accepted theory on the formation of secondary eyewall structures. Many previous studies focused on dynamic processes in the inner core of a tropical cyclone that would precede and ultimately lead to the formation of a secondary eyewall. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 were frequently sampled by research aircraft which gathered a copious amount of data. During this time, Rita developed a secondary eyewall which eventually replaced the original eyewall. This thesis will investigate the formation of a secondary eyewall with particular emphasis on the rainband region, as observations show that an outer principal rainband transformed into the secondary ring. A high resolution, full physics model (MM5) initialized with global model forecast fields correctly predicted the secondary eyewall formation in Rita. The model output will be used to investigate both Katrina and Rita in terms of their PV generation characteristics since PV and vorticity maxima correlate well with wind maxima that accompany the eyewall and rainbands. Furthermore, dynamical processes such as vortex Rossby wave (VRW) activity in the inner core region will be analyzed. Comparison of the differences in the two storms might shed some light on dynamics that can lead to structure changes. Comparison of the model data with aircraft observation is used to validate the results. Doppler radar derived wind fields will be used to calculate the vertical vorticity. The vorticity field is closely related to PV and thus a manifestation of the PV generation process in the rainband. The investigation has shown that Rita?s principal rainband features higher PV generation rates at radii beyond 80 km. Both the azimuthal component and the projection of asymmetric PV generated by convection onto the azimuthal mean connected with the principal band are hypothesized to be of importance for the formation of the secondary eyewall. VRW were found not to be important for the initial formation of the ring but might enhance convective activity once the outer eyewall contracts.


Model Forecast; Hurricane Dynamics; Vortex Rossby Wave; Katrina; Rita; Secondary Ring; Eyewall Replacement Cycle; RAINEX; Doppler Radar; Aircraft Observations; High-resolution Model