Coastal boundary layer transition within tropical cyclones at landfall



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Texas Tech University


Hurricanes pose a great risk to life and property with their high winds, excessive rainfall, wave action, and storm surge. Predicting changes within hurricanes at and near the time of landfall requires an understanding of the dynamics that drive the boundary layer flow. Forecasters predict the timing, duration, and effects of the intense winds associated with a hurricane when it comes ashore, while emergency management officials call for public evacuations based upon these forecasts. One region where understanding the magnitude and structure of the wind is critical is within the surface layer just downstream of the coastline in the onshore flow. Within this region the flow begins to adjust to changes in surface triggered by its passage from the shallow coastal waters to the less homogeneous and rougher land. This adjustment may include a slowing of the mean wind with an increase in turbulence, both resulting from the increased friction of the man-made and natural terrain. Hurricane observing programs consisting of portable and mobile equipment and regional coastal mesoscale observing networks are leading to a better understanding of the processes involved with these flow modifications. The Texas Tech University Wind Engineering Mobile Instrumented Tower Experiment (WEMITE) continues to play a leading role in the observation and analysis of the boundary layer of tropical cyclones at landfall.

In order to gain further insight into the characteristics of this coastal transition zone, experiments were planned utilizing portable in-situ and remote measuring devices to be placed within the onshore flow at landfall. Experiment plan designs along with results from these experiments ate discussed, including the analysis of a dataset collected by multiple institutions during the landfall of Hurricane Lili (2002) along the south-central Louisiana coast Investigation reveals the existence of frictionally-induced changes in the boundary layer downwind of the coastline within the right semicircle with respect to Lili's forward motion. In the outer reaches of Lili, these transitions appear similar to internal boundary layers produced by flow moving over an abrupt change in surface. The impact on the magnitude of the wind within this near-shore region is a reduction of 4-10% per 10 km distance from the coast up to 50 km inland for open terrain. Results of the study show this reduction to be an exponential function of distance from the coast which is dependent upon surface roughness. This rate of wind decay slows with farther progression inland and appears to be much faster than the rate found in soma modeling studies. In contrast near Lili's circulation center, little or no decrease in the magnitude of the mean wind was found for distances of up to 20 km inland.