The Prediction of Clear Air Turbulence over Mountainous Terrain

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  • a Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo.
  • | b U.S. Weather Bureau, ESSA, Silver Spring, Md.
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Abstract

Recent aircraft measurements of clear air turbulence over Australia have shown that the phenomenon of CAT in a thermally stable environment is associated with a breakdown of waves, presumably gravity waves or Helmholtz waves on a stable interface, into random turbulent eddies. The energy distribution in the wavelength range in which clear air turbulence is experienced seems to follow the “−5/3 law” postulated by Kolmogorov's similarity hypothesis. The “−5/3 law” seems to extend to much longer wavelengths than previously anticipated.

Combining these results of aircraft measurements with the theory on lee waves which has been derived by the use of perturbation equations, one finds that the energy involved in standing lee waves over mountains may “cascade” down from a wavelength range of approximately 10 km to a range near 100 m which then would be experienced as clear air turbulence, provided that the energy levels are high enough to cause any responses in an aircraft.

This physical model of turbulence being “fed” by mountain waves has been used in developing a forecasting scheme of CAT over mountains. Results of a preliminary, but very encouraging, study are reported in this paper.

Abstract

Recent aircraft measurements of clear air turbulence over Australia have shown that the phenomenon of CAT in a thermally stable environment is associated with a breakdown of waves, presumably gravity waves or Helmholtz waves on a stable interface, into random turbulent eddies. The energy distribution in the wavelength range in which clear air turbulence is experienced seems to follow the “−5/3 law” postulated by Kolmogorov's similarity hypothesis. The “−5/3 law” seems to extend to much longer wavelengths than previously anticipated.

Combining these results of aircraft measurements with the theory on lee waves which has been derived by the use of perturbation equations, one finds that the energy involved in standing lee waves over mountains may “cascade” down from a wavelength range of approximately 10 km to a range near 100 m which then would be experienced as clear air turbulence, provided that the energy levels are high enough to cause any responses in an aircraft.

This physical model of turbulence being “fed” by mountain waves has been used in developing a forecasting scheme of CAT over mountains. Results of a preliminary, but very encouraging, study are reported in this paper.

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