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Formation Mechanisms of the Mesoscale Environment Conducive to a Downslope Windstorm over the Cuyamaca Mountains Associated with Santa Ana Wind during the Cedar Fire (2003)

S. M. Shajedul KarimaDepartment of Physics, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro, North Carolina
bApplied Science and Technology, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro, North Carolina

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Yuh-Lang LinaDepartment of Physics, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro, North Carolina
bApplied Science and Technology, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro, North Carolina

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Michael L. KaplancDepartment of Applied Aviation Sciences, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott, Arizona

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Abstract

Numerical simulations were conducted to investigate the upstream environment’s impacts on the airflow over the lee slope of the Cuyamaca Mountains (CM) near San Diego, California, during the Cedar Fire that occurred from 25 to 29 October 2003. The upstream environment was largely controlled by a southwest–northeast-oriented upper-tropospheric jet streak that rotated around a positively tilted ridge within the polar jet stream. Three sequential dynamical processes were found to be responsible for modifying the mesoscale environment conducive to low-level momentum and dry air that sustained the Cedar Fire. First, the sinking motion associated with the indirect circulation of the jet streak’s exit region strengthened the midtropospheric flow over the southern Rockies and the lee slope of the Sawatch and San Juan Ranges, thus modestly affecting the airflow by enhancing the downslope wind over the CM. Second, consistent with the coupling process between the upper-level sinking motion, downward momentum transfer, and developing lower-layer mountain waves, a wave-induced critical level over the mountain produced wave breaking, which was characterized by a strong turbulent mixed region with a wind reversal on top of it. This critical level helped to produce severe downslope winds leading to the third stage: a hydraulic jump that subsequently enhanced the downstream extent of the strong winds conducive to the favorable lower-tropospheric environment for rapid fire spread. Consistent with these findings was the deep-layer resonance between the mountain surface and tropopause, which had a strong impact on strengthening the severe downslope winds over the lee slope of the CM accompanying the elevated strong easterly jet at low levels.

© 2022 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Yuh-Lang Lin, ylin@ncat.edu

Abstract

Numerical simulations were conducted to investigate the upstream environment’s impacts on the airflow over the lee slope of the Cuyamaca Mountains (CM) near San Diego, California, during the Cedar Fire that occurred from 25 to 29 October 2003. The upstream environment was largely controlled by a southwest–northeast-oriented upper-tropospheric jet streak that rotated around a positively tilted ridge within the polar jet stream. Three sequential dynamical processes were found to be responsible for modifying the mesoscale environment conducive to low-level momentum and dry air that sustained the Cedar Fire. First, the sinking motion associated with the indirect circulation of the jet streak’s exit region strengthened the midtropospheric flow over the southern Rockies and the lee slope of the Sawatch and San Juan Ranges, thus modestly affecting the airflow by enhancing the downslope wind over the CM. Second, consistent with the coupling process between the upper-level sinking motion, downward momentum transfer, and developing lower-layer mountain waves, a wave-induced critical level over the mountain produced wave breaking, which was characterized by a strong turbulent mixed region with a wind reversal on top of it. This critical level helped to produce severe downslope winds leading to the third stage: a hydraulic jump that subsequently enhanced the downstream extent of the strong winds conducive to the favorable lower-tropospheric environment for rapid fire spread. Consistent with these findings was the deep-layer resonance between the mountain surface and tropopause, which had a strong impact on strengthening the severe downslope winds over the lee slope of the CM accompanying the elevated strong easterly jet at low levels.

© 2022 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Yuh-Lang Lin, ylin@ncat.edu
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