Dynamical Model Simulation of the Morning Boundary Layer Development in Deep Mountain Valleys

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523
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Abstract

A dry, two-dimensional version of the Colorado State University Multi-dimensional Cloud/Mesoscale Model was used to study the cross-valley evolution of the wind and temperature structures in an idealized east-west oriented mountain valley. Two simulations were performed, one in which the valley was heated symmetrically and a second in which a mid-latitude heating distribution was imposed. Both runs were initiated identically with a stable layer filling the valley to ridgetop and a neutral layer above the ridge. A specified sinusoidal surface potential temperature flux function approximating the diurnal cycle forced the model at the lower boundary.

The results of the two simulations were remarkably similar. The model realistically reproduced the gross features found in actual valleys in both structure and timing. The simulated inversions were destroyed three and one-half hours after sunrise as a result of a neutral layer growing up from the surface meeting a descending inversion top. Slope winds with speeds of 3–5 m s−1 developed over both sidewalls two and one-half hours after sunrise. Both cases revealed the development of strongly stable pockets of air over the sidewalls which form when cold air advected upslope loses its buoyancy at higher elevations. These stable pockets temporarily block the slope flow and force transient cross-valley circulations to form which act to destabilize the valley boundary layer. Cross-valley mixing and gravity waves rapidly redistribute heat across the valley to prevent large potential temperature gradients from forming. As a result, oven large differences in heating rates between opposing sidewalls do not result in significant cross-valley potential temperature differences. Organized cross-valley circulations and eddy motions enhance lateral mixing in the stable layer as well.

Abstract

A dry, two-dimensional version of the Colorado State University Multi-dimensional Cloud/Mesoscale Model was used to study the cross-valley evolution of the wind and temperature structures in an idealized east-west oriented mountain valley. Two simulations were performed, one in which the valley was heated symmetrically and a second in which a mid-latitude heating distribution was imposed. Both runs were initiated identically with a stable layer filling the valley to ridgetop and a neutral layer above the ridge. A specified sinusoidal surface potential temperature flux function approximating the diurnal cycle forced the model at the lower boundary.

The results of the two simulations were remarkably similar. The model realistically reproduced the gross features found in actual valleys in both structure and timing. The simulated inversions were destroyed three and one-half hours after sunrise as a result of a neutral layer growing up from the surface meeting a descending inversion top. Slope winds with speeds of 3–5 m s−1 developed over both sidewalls two and one-half hours after sunrise. Both cases revealed the development of strongly stable pockets of air over the sidewalls which form when cold air advected upslope loses its buoyancy at higher elevations. These stable pockets temporarily block the slope flow and force transient cross-valley circulations to form which act to destabilize the valley boundary layer. Cross-valley mixing and gravity waves rapidly redistribute heat across the valley to prevent large potential temperature gradients from forming. As a result, oven large differences in heating rates between opposing sidewalls do not result in significant cross-valley potential temperature differences. Organized cross-valley circulations and eddy motions enhance lateral mixing in the stable layer as well.

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