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Precipitation over Concave Terrain

Qingfang JiangUCAR Visiting Scientist Program, Naval Research Laboratory, Monterey, California

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Abstract

Many topographic barriers are comprised of a series of concave or convex ridges that modulate the intensity and distribution of precipitation over mountainous areas. In this model-based idealized study, stratiform precipitation associated with stratified moist airflow past idealized concave ridges is investigated with a focus on windward blocking, flow confluence, and the associated precipitation enhancement.

It is found that flow confluence and precipitation enhancement by a concave ridge are controlled by the nondimensional ridge height M (M = Nmhm/U, where Nm is the moist buoyancy frequency, hm is the maximum ridge height, and U is the wind speed), based on which three dynamical regimes can be defined. In the linear regime (M < 0.4), a flow confluence zone is present over the upwind slope of the ridge vertex, where precipitation is significantly enhanced. The precipitation enhancement is due to the additional updraft driven by the horizontal flow convergence with a considerable contribution from lateral confluence. In the blocking regime (0.4 < M < Mc), the area and intensity of the flow confluence zone decrease with increasing mountain height due to low-level blocking. The critical nondimensional ridge height (Mc) for windward flow stagnation decreases with increasing concave angle. In the two regimes, flow confluence and precipitation enhancement are more pronounced for concave ridges with a longer cross-stream dimension or a larger concave angle. In the flow reversal regime (M > Mc), no steady state can be achieved and the precipitation enhancement at the vertex is absent.

In addition, the flow confluence and precipitation enhancement upstream of a concave ridge are sensitive to the presence of a relative gap or peak at the vertex, the earth’s rotation, and the incident wind. The relevant dynamics has been examined.

Corresponding author address: Qingfang Jiang, UCAR Visiting Scientist Program, NRL, 7 Grace Hopper Ave. Monterey, CA 93943-5502. Email: jiang@nrlmry.navy.mil

Abstract

Many topographic barriers are comprised of a series of concave or convex ridges that modulate the intensity and distribution of precipitation over mountainous areas. In this model-based idealized study, stratiform precipitation associated with stratified moist airflow past idealized concave ridges is investigated with a focus on windward blocking, flow confluence, and the associated precipitation enhancement.

It is found that flow confluence and precipitation enhancement by a concave ridge are controlled by the nondimensional ridge height M (M = Nmhm/U, where Nm is the moist buoyancy frequency, hm is the maximum ridge height, and U is the wind speed), based on which three dynamical regimes can be defined. In the linear regime (M < 0.4), a flow confluence zone is present over the upwind slope of the ridge vertex, where precipitation is significantly enhanced. The precipitation enhancement is due to the additional updraft driven by the horizontal flow convergence with a considerable contribution from lateral confluence. In the blocking regime (0.4 < M < Mc), the area and intensity of the flow confluence zone decrease with increasing mountain height due to low-level blocking. The critical nondimensional ridge height (Mc) for windward flow stagnation decreases with increasing concave angle. In the two regimes, flow confluence and precipitation enhancement are more pronounced for concave ridges with a longer cross-stream dimension or a larger concave angle. In the flow reversal regime (M > Mc), no steady state can be achieved and the precipitation enhancement at the vertex is absent.

In addition, the flow confluence and precipitation enhancement upstream of a concave ridge are sensitive to the presence of a relative gap or peak at the vertex, the earth’s rotation, and the incident wind. The relevant dynamics has been examined.

Corresponding author address: Qingfang Jiang, UCAR Visiting Scientist Program, NRL, 7 Grace Hopper Ave. Monterey, CA 93943-5502. Email: jiang@nrlmry.navy.mil

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