What are hot towers in a hurricane? A hot tower is a tropical cumulonimbus cloud reaching in to the stratosphere and is often observed in a hurricane. These structures are named because of the latent heat released from their convection which meteorologists believe aids in further rapid intensification from the heat transfer dynamic.
The presence of hot towers in a hurricane or cyclone is observed using special radar imagery called TRMM and extensive research is underway to determine if when these tall structures are observed in tropical systems, does it always mean the system will see rapid intensification.
This research could one day help the National Hurricane Center (NHC) provide better intensification and strengthening forecast for coastal areas along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.
Scientist are also studying whether these radar observed structures are becoming more prevalent in Category 4 and Category 5 storms because of increased sea surface temperatures (SSTs) from global warming and climate change. Or, if there are some other weather dynamics playing out.
Using the discussion form below, let’s discuss the topic of this article.
Discussions On Rapid Strengthening
While these structures were first identified in 1950 by weather scientists, their renewed interest is a result of the increasing frequency of tropical hurricanes and strength of these storms over the past decade.
In looking at Hurricane Laura in 2020 which hit Lake Charles, LA and Hurricane Michael in 2018 which hit Mexico Beach, FL, both storms saw extremely fast strengthening just before landfall, and both storms had a large number of hot towers within their radar imagery.
In the case of Laura, this storm went from a tropical depression to a Category 4 in just 12 hours. In the case of Michael, this storm reached Category 5 from Category 2 in just a few hours.
Are they always observed? The presence of this particular tropical cumulonimbus cloud is not observed in all cyclones, but they are increasingly seen in Category 3 and higher storms. And, the race is on to establish a correlation in when they are observed, did the hurricane go on to reach top level category status over a very short period of time.
Research consistently shows that convection within hot towers are greater compared to the normal structure of the eyewall and upper right quadrant which is the strongest part of a tropical hurricane.
It’s important to note that to a trained eye, the presence of these structures can be discerned in normal radar imagery, but it’s important not to make preparations and planning based on the observation of these structures.
We always encourage readers and residents of coastal U.S. regions to make all decisions based on the National Hurricane Center and their local emergency management office.
Now it’s your turn, what are your thoughts on this topic, and what has your research concluded?
Do you think global warming and climate change is equating to higher sea temperatures which allows these towers to form?
How could further research impact intensity forecast models?