Nocturnal Low-Level Jet in a Mountain Basin Complex. Part II: Transport and Diffusion of Tracer under Stable Conditions

Lisa S. Darby Earth System Research Laboratory/NOAA, Boulder, Colorado

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K. Jerry Allwine Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington

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Robert M. Banta Earth System Research Laboratory/NOAA, Boulder, Colorado

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Abstract

Differences in nighttime transport and diffusion of sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) tracer in an urban complex-terrain setting (Salt Lake City, Utah) are investigated using surface and Doppler lidar wind data and large-scale surface pressure differences. Interacting scales of motion, as studied through the URBAN 2000 field program combined with the Vertical Transport and Mixing (VTMX) experiment, explained the differences in the tracer behavior during three separate intensive operating periods. With an emphasis on nighttime stable boundary layer conditions, these field programs were designed to study flow features responsible for the nighttime transport of airborne substances. This transport has implications for air quality, homeland security, and emergency response if the airborne substances are hazardous. The important flow features investigated included thermally forced canyon and slope flows and a low-level jet (LLJ) that dominated the basin-scale winds when the surface pressure gradient was weak. The presence of thermally forced flows contributed to the complexity and hindered the predictability of the tracer motion within and beyond the city. When organized thermally forced flows were present, the tracer tended to stay closer to the city for longer periods of time, even though a strong basin-scale LLJ did develop. When thermally forced flows were short lived or absent, the basin-scale low-level jet dominated the wind field and enhanced the transport of tracer material out of the city.

Corresponding author address: Lisa S. Darby, NOAA (CSD3), 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80305. Email: lisa.darby@noaa.gov

Abstract

Differences in nighttime transport and diffusion of sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) tracer in an urban complex-terrain setting (Salt Lake City, Utah) are investigated using surface and Doppler lidar wind data and large-scale surface pressure differences. Interacting scales of motion, as studied through the URBAN 2000 field program combined with the Vertical Transport and Mixing (VTMX) experiment, explained the differences in the tracer behavior during three separate intensive operating periods. With an emphasis on nighttime stable boundary layer conditions, these field programs were designed to study flow features responsible for the nighttime transport of airborne substances. This transport has implications for air quality, homeland security, and emergency response if the airborne substances are hazardous. The important flow features investigated included thermally forced canyon and slope flows and a low-level jet (LLJ) that dominated the basin-scale winds when the surface pressure gradient was weak. The presence of thermally forced flows contributed to the complexity and hindered the predictability of the tracer motion within and beyond the city. When organized thermally forced flows were present, the tracer tended to stay closer to the city for longer periods of time, even though a strong basin-scale LLJ did develop. When thermally forced flows were short lived or absent, the basin-scale low-level jet dominated the wind field and enhanced the transport of tracer material out of the city.

Corresponding author address: Lisa S. Darby, NOAA (CSD3), 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80305. Email: lisa.darby@noaa.gov

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