Morning Transition Tracer Experiments in a Deep Narrow Valley

C. David Whiteman Pacific Northwest Laboratory, Richland, Washington

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Abstract

Three sulfur hexafluoride atmospheric tracer experiments were conducted during the post-sunrise temperature inversion breakup period in the deep, narrow Brush Creek Valley of Colorado. Experiments were conducted under clear, undisturbed weather conditions.

A continuous elevated tracer plume was produced along the axis of the valley before sunrise and the behavior of the plume during the inversion breakup period was detected down-valley from the release point using an array of radio-controlled sequential bag samplers, a vertical SF6 profiling system carried on a tethered balloon, two portable gas chromatographs operated on a sidewall of the valley, and a continuous real-time SF6 monitor operated from a research aircraft. Supporting meteorological data came primarily from tethered balloon profilers. The nocturnal elevated plume was carried and diffused in down-valley flows. After sunrise, convective boundary layers grew upward from the sunlit valley surfaces, fumigating the elevated plume onto the valley floor and sidewalls. Upslope flow developed in the growing convective boundary layers, carrying fumigated SF6 up the sidewalls and causing a compensating subsidence over the valley center. High post-sunrise SF6 concentrations were experienced on the northeast-facing sidewall of the northwest–southeast oriented valley as a result of cross-valley flow, which developed due to differential solar heating of the sidewalls. Reversal of the down-valley wind system brought air with lower SF6 concentrations into the lower valley.

Abstract

Three sulfur hexafluoride atmospheric tracer experiments were conducted during the post-sunrise temperature inversion breakup period in the deep, narrow Brush Creek Valley of Colorado. Experiments were conducted under clear, undisturbed weather conditions.

A continuous elevated tracer plume was produced along the axis of the valley before sunrise and the behavior of the plume during the inversion breakup period was detected down-valley from the release point using an array of radio-controlled sequential bag samplers, a vertical SF6 profiling system carried on a tethered balloon, two portable gas chromatographs operated on a sidewall of the valley, and a continuous real-time SF6 monitor operated from a research aircraft. Supporting meteorological data came primarily from tethered balloon profilers. The nocturnal elevated plume was carried and diffused in down-valley flows. After sunrise, convective boundary layers grew upward from the sunlit valley surfaces, fumigating the elevated plume onto the valley floor and sidewalls. Upslope flow developed in the growing convective boundary layers, carrying fumigated SF6 up the sidewalls and causing a compensating subsidence over the valley center. High post-sunrise SF6 concentrations were experienced on the northeast-facing sidewall of the northwest–southeast oriented valley as a result of cross-valley flow, which developed due to differential solar heating of the sidewalls. Reversal of the down-valley wind system brought air with lower SF6 concentrations into the lower valley.

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