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Turbulence Characteristics in an Elevated Shear Layer over Owens Valley

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  • 1 UCAR, Monterey, California
  • | 2 Naval Research Laboratory, Monterey, California
  • | 3 Department of Meteorology and Geophysics, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
  • | 4 Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
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Abstract

Characteristics of turbulence in the lower and middle troposphere over Owens Valley have been examined using aircraft in situ measurements obtained from the Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment. The two events analyzed in this study are characterized by a deep turbulent layer from the valley floor up to the midtroposphere associated with the interaction between trapped waves and an elevated shear layer. Kelvin–Helmholtz (KH) instability develops above the mountaintop level and often along the wave crests where the Richardson number is reduced. The turbulence induced by KH instability is characterized by a progressive downscale energy cascade, a well-defined inertial subrange up to 1 km, and large eddies with vertical to horizontal aspect ratios less than unity. The turbulence below the mountaintop level is largely shear induced, associated with wave steepening and breaking, and is more isotropic. Evaluation of structure functions indicates that while the turbulence energy cascade is predominately downscale, upscale energy transfer exists with horizontal scales from a few hundred meters to a few kilometers because of the transient energy dispersion of large eddies generated by KH instability and gravity wave steepening or breaking.

Corresponding author address: Qingfang Jiang, UCAR, 7 Grace Hopper Ave., Monterey, CA 93943. Email: jiang@nrlmry.navy.mil

This article included in the Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment (T-Rex) special collection.

Abstract

Characteristics of turbulence in the lower and middle troposphere over Owens Valley have been examined using aircraft in situ measurements obtained from the Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment. The two events analyzed in this study are characterized by a deep turbulent layer from the valley floor up to the midtroposphere associated with the interaction between trapped waves and an elevated shear layer. Kelvin–Helmholtz (KH) instability develops above the mountaintop level and often along the wave crests where the Richardson number is reduced. The turbulence induced by KH instability is characterized by a progressive downscale energy cascade, a well-defined inertial subrange up to 1 km, and large eddies with vertical to horizontal aspect ratios less than unity. The turbulence below the mountaintop level is largely shear induced, associated with wave steepening and breaking, and is more isotropic. Evaluation of structure functions indicates that while the turbulence energy cascade is predominately downscale, upscale energy transfer exists with horizontal scales from a few hundred meters to a few kilometers because of the transient energy dispersion of large eddies generated by KH instability and gravity wave steepening or breaking.

Corresponding author address: Qingfang Jiang, UCAR, 7 Grace Hopper Ave., Monterey, CA 93943. Email: jiang@nrlmry.navy.mil

This article included in the Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment (T-Rex) special collection.

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