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Thermally Driven Gap Winds into the Mexico City Basin

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  • 1 Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington
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Abstract

A southeasterly flow in the form of a low-level jet that enters the Mexico City basin through a mountain gap in the southeast corner of the basin developed consistently in the afternoons or early evenings during a four-week 1997 winter field campaign. Peak wind speeds often exceeded 10 m s−1. Although these winds have not been studied previously, the observations suggest that they are a regular feature of the basin wind system, at least during the winter months. The jets were found more frequently during the early part of the experiment, when conditions in the basin were generally warmer, drier, and less cloudy, than in the later part when conditions were cooler, more humid, and cloudier. The winds usually were stronger during the early period, also. Temperature measurements from radiosondes launched inside and outside the basin showed a dependence of the gap wind strength on the temperature differences between the two regions. A three-dimensional numerical model was used to simulate the characteristics of the gap flows to provide information on the mechanisms responsible for their development. The maximum speed of the jet usually is reached several hours after the occurrence of the maximum temperature gradient between the basin and the region to the south. An analysis of the momentum balance shows that the gap wind is initiated by a north–south pressure gradient across the gap in the lower boundary layer arising from temperature differences between the warmer basin and the cooler exterior air. Penetration of the gap wind into the basin is caused primarily by horizontal advection. The gap wind plays an important role in the formation of a convergence zone, which can have an important effect on surface air pollutant distributions in the basin.

Corresponding author address: J. Christopher Doran, P.O. Box 999, MSIN K9-30, Richland, WA 99352.

jc_doran@pnl.gov

Abstract

A southeasterly flow in the form of a low-level jet that enters the Mexico City basin through a mountain gap in the southeast corner of the basin developed consistently in the afternoons or early evenings during a four-week 1997 winter field campaign. Peak wind speeds often exceeded 10 m s−1. Although these winds have not been studied previously, the observations suggest that they are a regular feature of the basin wind system, at least during the winter months. The jets were found more frequently during the early part of the experiment, when conditions in the basin were generally warmer, drier, and less cloudy, than in the later part when conditions were cooler, more humid, and cloudier. The winds usually were stronger during the early period, also. Temperature measurements from radiosondes launched inside and outside the basin showed a dependence of the gap wind strength on the temperature differences between the two regions. A three-dimensional numerical model was used to simulate the characteristics of the gap flows to provide information on the mechanisms responsible for their development. The maximum speed of the jet usually is reached several hours after the occurrence of the maximum temperature gradient between the basin and the region to the south. An analysis of the momentum balance shows that the gap wind is initiated by a north–south pressure gradient across the gap in the lower boundary layer arising from temperature differences between the warmer basin and the cooler exterior air. Penetration of the gap wind into the basin is caused primarily by horizontal advection. The gap wind plays an important role in the formation of a convergence zone, which can have an important effect on surface air pollutant distributions in the basin.

Corresponding author address: J. Christopher Doran, P.O. Box 999, MSIN K9-30, Richland, WA 99352.

jc_doran@pnl.gov

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