Hot Towers

By: bappit , 7:33 PM GMT on July 06, 2013

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Hot towers were first identified in the 1950's by Joanne Simpson working under Herbert Riehl, her Ph.D. advisor. She was studying what would drive the Hadley circulations. From a short biography:

"Simpson, in collaboration with Herbert Riehl, proposed the 'Hot Tower' hypothesis of tropical convection in 1958. Predictions of the hypothesis were verified by field experiments 20 years later. Hot towers are clouds that carry undiluted warm, moist air from the ocean surface 15,000 meters (50,000 feet) into the air."


"In the late 1950s, Simpson and her former Ph.D. advisor, Riehl, turned meteorology on its ear when they showed that heat generated by the condensation of water within tall, anvil-shaped, cumulonimbus clouds called 'hot towers' provides the energy needed to keep the Hadley circulation and the trade winds running. Some people doubted this 'hot tower hypothesis.' They claimed that the energy released by the clouds would be diluted by outside air before it ever reached the cloud tops. Simpson and Riehl demonstrated that these 'protected cores' of energy transport are not only possible, but that they occur all the time in equatorial regions."

Note the "occur all the time" comment. That means hot towers can occur independently of tropical storms which do not occur all the time.

The hot tower concept came into vogue with hurricane enthusiasts after a paper by Kelley and Stout presented in 2004--about 45 years after Simpson and Riehl.

"After compiling the statistics, Kelley and Stout found a tropical cyclone with a hot tower in its eyewall was twice as likely to intensify within the next six hours than a cyclone that lacked a tower. The "eyewall" is the ring of clouds around a cyclone's central eye. Kelley and Stout considered many alternative definitions for hot towers before concluding the nine-mile height threshold was statistically significant."

The concept of hot towers has been around a lot longer than the idea of linking tropical cyclone intensification to them.

Joanne Simpson at work. (via Wikipedia)

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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