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Nighttime Turbulent Events in a Steep Valley: A Nested Large-Eddy Simulation Study

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  • 1 Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California
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Abstract

This numerical study investigates the nighttime flow dynamics in Owens Valley, California. Nested high-resolution large-eddy simulation (LES) is used to resolve stable boundary layer flows within the valley. On 17 April during the 2006 Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment, the valley atmosphere experiences weak synoptic forcings and is largely dominated by buoyancy-driven downslope and down-valley flows. Tower instruments on the valley floor record a continuous decrease in temperature after sunset, except for a brief warming episode. This transient warming event is modeled with good magnitude and temporal precision with LES. Analysis of the LES flow field confirms the event to be the result of a slope to valley flow transition, as previously suggested by researchers based on field observations. On the same night, a northerly cold airflow from the Great Basin is channeled through a pass on the eastern valley sidewall. The current plunges into the stable valley atmosphere, overshooting the altitude of its neutral buoyancy, and generating a large-scale oscillatory motion. The resulting cross-valley flow creates strong vertical shear with the down-valley flow in the lower layers of the atmosphere. A portion of the cross-valley flow is captured by a scanning lidar. The nested LES is in good agreement with the lidar-recorded radial velocity. Furthermore, the LES is able to resolve Kelvin–Helmholtz waves, and ejection and sweep events at the two-layer interface, which lead to top-down vertical mixing.

Corresponding author address: Fotini Chow, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, 621 Davis Hall, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-1710. E-mail: tinakc@berkeley.edu

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

Abstract

This numerical study investigates the nighttime flow dynamics in Owens Valley, California. Nested high-resolution large-eddy simulation (LES) is used to resolve stable boundary layer flows within the valley. On 17 April during the 2006 Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment, the valley atmosphere experiences weak synoptic forcings and is largely dominated by buoyancy-driven downslope and down-valley flows. Tower instruments on the valley floor record a continuous decrease in temperature after sunset, except for a brief warming episode. This transient warming event is modeled with good magnitude and temporal precision with LES. Analysis of the LES flow field confirms the event to be the result of a slope to valley flow transition, as previously suggested by researchers based on field observations. On the same night, a northerly cold airflow from the Great Basin is channeled through a pass on the eastern valley sidewall. The current plunges into the stable valley atmosphere, overshooting the altitude of its neutral buoyancy, and generating a large-scale oscillatory motion. The resulting cross-valley flow creates strong vertical shear with the down-valley flow in the lower layers of the atmosphere. A portion of the cross-valley flow is captured by a scanning lidar. The nested LES is in good agreement with the lidar-recorded radial velocity. Furthermore, the LES is able to resolve Kelvin–Helmholtz waves, and ejection and sweep events at the two-layer interface, which lead to top-down vertical mixing.

Corresponding author address: Fotini Chow, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, 621 Davis Hall, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-1710. E-mail: tinakc@berkeley.edu

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

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