Numerical Study of the Orographic Forcing of Heavy Precipitation during MAP IOP-2B

Sen Chiao Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Yuh-Lang Lin Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

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Michael L. Kaplan Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

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Abstract

This paper investigates the local circulation associated with a heavy orographic rainfall event during 19–21 September 1999 [Mesoscale Alpine Programme Intensive Observing Period 2B (MAP IOP-2B)]. This event was simulated with a 5-km horizontal grid spacing using the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–NCAR Mesoscale Model (MM5). The MM5 simulation reproduced the basic features such as the timing and location of the deep trough and the associated precipitation evolution, though the total amount of precipitation is slightly higher than that measured by rain gauges (∼30% in 24 h). The near-surface flow was dominated by an easterly jet originally from the Adriatic Sea and a southerly jet from the Gulf of Genoa. A significant westward turning occurred when the southerly flow approached the south side of the Alps. This deflection was caused by boundary layer friction and rotation, as well as mountain blocking effects. Flow was generally from the south above the surface. Precipitation was mainly concentrated on the windward slopes, especially near the Lago Maggiore region. Sensitivity experiments have been conducted to investigate the effects of upstream orography, the western flank of the Alps, boundary layer friction, and horizontal resolution. The results indicate that precipitation distribution and amount over the southern upslope region of the Alps were not directly related to either the coastal Apennine Mountains or the west flank of the Alps. The boundary layer friction reduces the total amount and alters the distribution of rainfall by weakening the wind near the surface. The 1.67-km horizontal grid spacing simulation indicates that heavy rainfall tended to be concentrated in the vicinity of individual mountain peaks. The total amount of rainfall was overpredicted along the windward slopes because of the strong upward motion that occurred on the upslope of the barrier. The results indicate the importance of dynamical forcing associated with upslope-induced and near-surface horizontal velocity convergence-induced vertical motion, which increases rapidly as horizontal resolution increases.

Corresponding author address: Sen Chiao, Harvard University, 29 Oxford Street, Pierce Hall 110-I, Cambridge, MA 02138. Email: s_chiao@yahoo.com

Abstract

This paper investigates the local circulation associated with a heavy orographic rainfall event during 19–21 September 1999 [Mesoscale Alpine Programme Intensive Observing Period 2B (MAP IOP-2B)]. This event was simulated with a 5-km horizontal grid spacing using the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–NCAR Mesoscale Model (MM5). The MM5 simulation reproduced the basic features such as the timing and location of the deep trough and the associated precipitation evolution, though the total amount of precipitation is slightly higher than that measured by rain gauges (∼30% in 24 h). The near-surface flow was dominated by an easterly jet originally from the Adriatic Sea and a southerly jet from the Gulf of Genoa. A significant westward turning occurred when the southerly flow approached the south side of the Alps. This deflection was caused by boundary layer friction and rotation, as well as mountain blocking effects. Flow was generally from the south above the surface. Precipitation was mainly concentrated on the windward slopes, especially near the Lago Maggiore region. Sensitivity experiments have been conducted to investigate the effects of upstream orography, the western flank of the Alps, boundary layer friction, and horizontal resolution. The results indicate that precipitation distribution and amount over the southern upslope region of the Alps were not directly related to either the coastal Apennine Mountains or the west flank of the Alps. The boundary layer friction reduces the total amount and alters the distribution of rainfall by weakening the wind near the surface. The 1.67-km horizontal grid spacing simulation indicates that heavy rainfall tended to be concentrated in the vicinity of individual mountain peaks. The total amount of rainfall was overpredicted along the windward slopes because of the strong upward motion that occurred on the upslope of the barrier. The results indicate the importance of dynamical forcing associated with upslope-induced and near-surface horizontal velocity convergence-induced vertical motion, which increases rapidly as horizontal resolution increases.

Corresponding author address: Sen Chiao, Harvard University, 29 Oxford Street, Pierce Hall 110-I, Cambridge, MA 02138. Email: s_chiao@yahoo.com

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