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Comparison of Vertical Soundings and Sidewall Air Temperature Measurements in a Small Alpine Basin

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  • a Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington
  • | b Institute for Meteorology and Geophysics, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
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Abstract

Tethered balloon soundings from two sites on the floor of a 1-km-diameter limestone sinkhole in the eastern Alps are compared with pseudovertical temperature “soundings” from three lines of temperature dataloggers on the basin's northwest, southwest, and southeast sidewalls. Under stable nighttime conditions with low background winds, the pseudovertical profiles from all three lines were good proxies for free air temperature soundings over the basin center, with a mean nighttime cold temperature bias of about 0.4°C and a standard deviation of 0.4°C. Cold biases were highest in the upper basin where relatively warm air subsides to replace air that spills out of the basin through the lowest-altitude saddle. On a windy night, standard deviations increased to 1°–2°C. After sunrise, the varying exposures of the dataloggers to sunlight made the pseudovertical profiles less useful as proxies for free air soundings. The good correspondence between sidewall and free air temperatures during high-static-stability conditions suggests that sidewall soundings can be used to monitor temperatures, temperature gradients, and temperature inversion evolution in the sinkhole. Sidewall soundings can produce more frequent profiles at lower cost than can tethersondes or rawinsondes, and extension of these findings to other enclosed or semienclosed topographies may enhance future basic meteorological research or support applications studies in agriculture, forestry, air pollution, and land use planning.

Corresponding author address: C. David Whiteman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, P.O. Box 999, Richland, WA 99352. dave.whiteman@pnl.gov

Abstract

Tethered balloon soundings from two sites on the floor of a 1-km-diameter limestone sinkhole in the eastern Alps are compared with pseudovertical temperature “soundings” from three lines of temperature dataloggers on the basin's northwest, southwest, and southeast sidewalls. Under stable nighttime conditions with low background winds, the pseudovertical profiles from all three lines were good proxies for free air temperature soundings over the basin center, with a mean nighttime cold temperature bias of about 0.4°C and a standard deviation of 0.4°C. Cold biases were highest in the upper basin where relatively warm air subsides to replace air that spills out of the basin through the lowest-altitude saddle. On a windy night, standard deviations increased to 1°–2°C. After sunrise, the varying exposures of the dataloggers to sunlight made the pseudovertical profiles less useful as proxies for free air soundings. The good correspondence between sidewall and free air temperatures during high-static-stability conditions suggests that sidewall soundings can be used to monitor temperatures, temperature gradients, and temperature inversion evolution in the sinkhole. Sidewall soundings can produce more frequent profiles at lower cost than can tethersondes or rawinsondes, and extension of these findings to other enclosed or semienclosed topographies may enhance future basic meteorological research or support applications studies in agriculture, forestry, air pollution, and land use planning.

Corresponding author address: C. David Whiteman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, P.O. Box 999, Richland, WA 99352. dave.whiteman@pnl.gov

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