The Quinault Blowdown: A Microscale Wind Event Driven by a Mountain-Wave Rotor

Clifford F. Mass Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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Robert Conrick Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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Nicholas Weber Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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Joseph P. Zagrodnik Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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Abstract

On 27 January 2018, a highly localized, strong wind event occurred along the north shore of Lake Quinault, Washington. The resulting loss of large old-growth trees in a roughly 0.5-km2 region led to blocked roads and power outages. Nearby surface stations did not record anomalous winds, and no tree damage was reported in the surrounding region. Based on public accounts and a nearby seismometer, it appears that the strong winds lasted less than 10 min. Surface and aerial damage surveys showed that the trees fell from a different direction (northerly) than the synoptic or mesoscale f low (southwesterly to southeasterly). Based on high-resolution Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model simulations, it appears that the damaging northerly winds were the result of a strong atmospheric rotor produced by a high-amplitude mountain wave. A simulation with 148-m grid spacing produced a rotor at the same time and location as the treefalls. Synoptic analysis and the high-resolution simulation showed that moderately strong southeasterly flow and a stable layer associated with the approaching occluded front interacted with a ∼750-m-high upstream mountain ridge to produce the mountain wave and associated rotor circulation. The combination of an inversion and strong shear at and above the upstream ridge were outliers in a climatology of soundings from the nearby Quillayute rawinsonde site, suggesting that such intense mountain-wave rotors are unusual in this valley.

© 2019 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: Clifford F. Mass, cmass@uw.edu

Abstract

On 27 January 2018, a highly localized, strong wind event occurred along the north shore of Lake Quinault, Washington. The resulting loss of large old-growth trees in a roughly 0.5-km2 region led to blocked roads and power outages. Nearby surface stations did not record anomalous winds, and no tree damage was reported in the surrounding region. Based on public accounts and a nearby seismometer, it appears that the strong winds lasted less than 10 min. Surface and aerial damage surveys showed that the trees fell from a different direction (northerly) than the synoptic or mesoscale f low (southwesterly to southeasterly). Based on high-resolution Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model simulations, it appears that the damaging northerly winds were the result of a strong atmospheric rotor produced by a high-amplitude mountain wave. A simulation with 148-m grid spacing produced a rotor at the same time and location as the treefalls. Synoptic analysis and the high-resolution simulation showed that moderately strong southeasterly flow and a stable layer associated with the approaching occluded front interacted with a ∼750-m-high upstream mountain ridge to produce the mountain wave and associated rotor circulation. The combination of an inversion and strong shear at and above the upstream ridge were outliers in a climatology of soundings from the nearby Quillayute rawinsonde site, suggesting that such intense mountain-wave rotors are unusual in this valley.

© 2019 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: Clifford F. Mass, cmass@uw.edu
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