Guidance From The Marsupial Theory

Marsupial tracking is a real-time, experimental forecast product to track the wave pouch and predict the tropical cyclogenesis location using global model operational data.

Image for Marsupial Theory

Cartoon of the marsupial theory of tropical cyclogenesis associated with African easterly waves. The dashed green contours depict the horizontal wind currents of the easterly wave in the earth-based reference frame in the lower atmosphere, which is usually open with an inverted v pattern. The solid black curves delineate the approximate boundary of the marsupial wave pouch as viewed moving with the easterly wave. The pouch tends to protect the moist air motions inside from the generally hostile environment, such as dry air associated with the Sahara Air Layer (SAL) that flows westward from the African Sahel. Once the “joey” has attained sufficient spin within the pouch they can exist on their own and leave the mother pouch usually moving northward relative to the mother wave. The thick purple line (CL) and black line represent the critical latitude and the trough axis, respectively. The intersection of the critical line and the trough axis pinpoints the center of the pouch, which is the preferred location for tropical cyclogenesis. (From Wang et al. 2008).

The product is based on the marsupial theory for tropical cyclogenesis proposed in a recent study by Dunkerton, Montgomery and Wang 2008 (DMW08). The marsupial theory suggests that the critical layer of a tropical easterly wave is important to tropical storm formation because (see the schematic on the right)

Hypothesis 1:
Wave breaking or roll-up of the cyclonic vorticity near the critical surface in the lower troposphere provides the vorticity seedling for TC formation;
Hypothesis 2:
The wave critical layer is a region of closed circulation, where air is repeatedly moistened by convection and protected from dry air intrusion;
Hypothesis 3:
The parent wave is maintained and possibly enhanced by diabatically amplified mesoscale vortices within the wave.

It is shown that genesis tends to occur near the intersection of the critical surface and the trough axis of the precursor parent wave, which is the center of the pouch.

The objective of marsupial tracking is to track the wave pouch (rather than the diabatic vortices inside the pouch), estimate its propagation speed and predict the genesis location, which can be used to provide useful guidance for flight planning during the TCS-08 field campaign and the NSF-PREDICT field experiment in 2010.

USA Today recently published an article on the research being done on the new paradigm of marsupial theory. A copy of the article that appeared in the print version is available for download as a PDF file.