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A Linear Theory of Orographic Precipitation

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  • 1 Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
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Abstract

A linear theory of orographic precipitation is developed, including airflow dynamics, condensed water advection, and downslope evaporation. The formulation extends the widely used “upslope” model. Vertically integrated steady-state governing equations for condensed water are solved using Fourier transform techniques. Closed form expressions are derived for special cases. For more general cases, the precipitation field is computed quickly by multiplying the terrain transform by a wavenumber-dependent transfer function.

Five length scales are included in the model: mountain width, a buoyancy wave scale, the moist layer depth, and two condensed water advection distances. The efficiency of precipitation in the model is sensitive to the decay of the forced ascent through the moist layer and to the advection of condensed water downwind into the region of descent. The strong influence of horizontal scale on precipitation pattern and amount predicted by the model is discussed. The model is illustrated by applying it to the Olympic Mountains in Washington State.

Corresponding author address: Prof. Ronald B. Smith, Dept. of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, P.O. Box 208109, New Haven, CT 06520-8109. Email: ronald.smith@yale.edu

Abstract

A linear theory of orographic precipitation is developed, including airflow dynamics, condensed water advection, and downslope evaporation. The formulation extends the widely used “upslope” model. Vertically integrated steady-state governing equations for condensed water are solved using Fourier transform techniques. Closed form expressions are derived for special cases. For more general cases, the precipitation field is computed quickly by multiplying the terrain transform by a wavenumber-dependent transfer function.

Five length scales are included in the model: mountain width, a buoyancy wave scale, the moist layer depth, and two condensed water advection distances. The efficiency of precipitation in the model is sensitive to the decay of the forced ascent through the moist layer and to the advection of condensed water downwind into the region of descent. The strong influence of horizontal scale on precipitation pattern and amount predicted by the model is discussed. The model is illustrated by applying it to the Olympic Mountains in Washington State.

Corresponding author address: Prof. Ronald B. Smith, Dept. of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, P.O. Box 208109, New Haven, CT 06520-8109. Email: ronald.smith@yale.edu

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