Theses Doctoral

Extreme weather: subtropical floods and tropical cyclones

Shaevitz, Daniel Albert

Extreme weather events have a large effect on society. As such, it is important to understand these events and to project how they may change in a future, warmer climate. The aim of this thesis is to develop a deeper understanding of two types of extreme weather events: subtropical floods and tropical cyclones (TCs).
In the subtropics, the latitude is high enough that quasi-geostrophic dynamics are at least qualitatively relevant, while low enough that moisture may be abundant and convection strong. Extratropical extreme precipitation events are usually associated with large-scale flow disturbances, strong ascent, and large latent heat release. In the first part of this thesis, I examine the possible triggering of convection by the large-scale dynamics and investigate the coupling between the two. Specifically two examples of extreme precipitation events in the subtropics are analyzed, the 2010 and 2014 floods of India and Pakistan and the 2015 flood of Texas and Oklahoma. I invert the quasi-geostrophic omega equation to decompose the large-scale vertical motion profile to components due to synoptic forcing and diabatic heating. Additionally, I present model results from within the Column Quasi-Geostrophic framework. A single column model and cloud-revolving model are forced with the large-scale forcings (other than large-scale vertical motion) computed from the quasi-geostrophic omega equation with input data from a reanalysis data set, and the large-scale vertical motion is diagnosed interactively with the simulated convection. It is found that convection was triggered primarily by mechanically forced orographic ascent over the Himalayas during the India/Pakistan flood and by upper-level Potential Vorticity disturbances during the Texas/Oklahoma flood. Furthermore, a climate attribution analysis was conducted for the Texas/Oklahoma flood and it is found that anthropogenic climate change was responsible for a small amount of rainfall during the event but the intensity of this event may be greatly increased if it occurs in a future climate.
In the second part of this thesis, I examine the ability of high-resolution global atmospheric models to simulate TCs. Specifically, I present an intercomparison of several models' ability to simulate the global characteristics of TCs in the current climate. This is a necessary first step before using these models to project future changes in TCs. Overall, the models were able to reproduce the geographic distribution of TCs reasonably well, with some of the models performing remarkably well. The intensity of TCs varied widely between the models, with some of this difference being due to model resolution.


  • thumnail for Shaevitz_columbia_0054D_13598.pdf Shaevitz_columbia_0054D_13598.pdf application/pdf 4.77 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics
Thesis Advisors
Sobel, Adam H.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 12, 2016