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Variability of Surface Air Temperature over Gently Sloped Terrain

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  • 1 School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
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Abstract

Temperature and wind data from a rural micronet and nearby site of the Oklahoma Mesonet are analyzed to study the frequency, strength, and formation processes of cold-pool events in a region with gentle terrain. Spatial analyses were performed for a 2-yr-long temperature record from 26 temperature/humidity surface stations, deployed across a 120 m × 320 m micronet located in a region of gently sloped terrain with maximum elevation changes of ∼25 m. Cold pools frequently formed at the base of a gentle slope in a small depression of only ∼6-m depth that is also sheltered by trees. The strength of each cold-pool event was classified according to a cold-pool index based on average nocturnal temperature perturbations within the cold-pool region. Wind data collected with sonic anemometers on a 15-m-tall tower at the micronet for a period of three months (spring 2005) suggest that flow sheltering by vegetation plays an important role in the cold-pool formation. The wind data also show signatures of katabatic flow for about 50% of the strong cold-pool events. However, a heat budget analysis for these nights suggested that the katabatic flows were associated with warm-air advection along the slope and that if katabatic jets had penetrated the cold pool, they would have produced substantial warming in the region of the cold pool. Since such warming was not observed, it is concluded that the katabatic jets did not actually penetrate the cold pool but likely flowed over it. An analysis of Richardson numbers demonstrates that cold-pool formation frequently occurs under strongly stable conditions that tend to suppress vertical turbulent mixing in the surface layer. Observations that significant temperature changes can occur even with elevation changes on the order of 6 m have important implications in agriculture as well as in data assimilation.

Corresponding author address: Petra M. Klein, School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, 120 David L. Boren Blvd., Norman, OK 73072-7307. Email: pkklein@ou.edu

Abstract

Temperature and wind data from a rural micronet and nearby site of the Oklahoma Mesonet are analyzed to study the frequency, strength, and formation processes of cold-pool events in a region with gentle terrain. Spatial analyses were performed for a 2-yr-long temperature record from 26 temperature/humidity surface stations, deployed across a 120 m × 320 m micronet located in a region of gently sloped terrain with maximum elevation changes of ∼25 m. Cold pools frequently formed at the base of a gentle slope in a small depression of only ∼6-m depth that is also sheltered by trees. The strength of each cold-pool event was classified according to a cold-pool index based on average nocturnal temperature perturbations within the cold-pool region. Wind data collected with sonic anemometers on a 15-m-tall tower at the micronet for a period of three months (spring 2005) suggest that flow sheltering by vegetation plays an important role in the cold-pool formation. The wind data also show signatures of katabatic flow for about 50% of the strong cold-pool events. However, a heat budget analysis for these nights suggested that the katabatic flows were associated with warm-air advection along the slope and that if katabatic jets had penetrated the cold pool, they would have produced substantial warming in the region of the cold pool. Since such warming was not observed, it is concluded that the katabatic jets did not actually penetrate the cold pool but likely flowed over it. An analysis of Richardson numbers demonstrates that cold-pool formation frequently occurs under strongly stable conditions that tend to suppress vertical turbulent mixing in the surface layer. Observations that significant temperature changes can occur even with elevation changes on the order of 6 m have important implications in agriculture as well as in data assimilation.

Corresponding author address: Petra M. Klein, School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, 120 David L. Boren Blvd., Norman, OK 73072-7307. Email: pkklein@ou.edu

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