Application of Theory to Simulations of Observed Cases of Orographically Forced Convective Rainfall

Mario Marcello Miglietta ISAC-CNR, Lecce, and ISE-CNR, Verbania Pallanza, Italy

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Richard Rotunno National Center for Atmospheric Research,* Boulder, Colorado

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Abstract

In two recent papers, the authors reported on numerical simulations of conditionally unstable flows past an idealized mesoscale mountain ridge. These idealized simulations, which were performed with a three-dimensional, explicitly cloud-resolving model, allowed the investigation of simulated precipitation characteristics as a function of the prescribed environment. The numerical solutions were carried out for a uniform wind flowing past a bell-shaped ridge and using an idealized unstable sounding with prescribed values of the relevant parameters.

In the present work the application of these theoretical results to observed cases of orographically forced convective rainfall including the Big Thompson flood (1976, Colorado), the Oahu flood (1974, Hawaii), and the Gard flood (2002, France) is reported. Specifically, numerical simulations have been carried out using observed and idealized soundings relevant to these cases but with idealized topography. It is found that using the observed soundings, but with idealized constant-wind profiles, the simulated rain rates fit reasonably well within the previous theoretically derived parameter space for intense orographic convective rainfall. However, in order to reproduce larger rainfall rates, in closer agreement with observations, in the first two cases it was necessary to initialize the sounding with a wind profile characterized by low-level flow toward the mountain with weak flow aloft (as observed for the across-mountain wind component). For the Gard case, the situation was more complex and it is found unlikely that the situation can be reduced to a simple two-dimensional problem.

Corresponding author address: Mario Marcello Miglietta, CNR-ISAC, Strada Provinciale Lecce-Monteroni, 73100 Lecce, Italy. E-mail: m.miglietta@isac.cnr.it

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Abstract

In two recent papers, the authors reported on numerical simulations of conditionally unstable flows past an idealized mesoscale mountain ridge. These idealized simulations, which were performed with a three-dimensional, explicitly cloud-resolving model, allowed the investigation of simulated precipitation characteristics as a function of the prescribed environment. The numerical solutions were carried out for a uniform wind flowing past a bell-shaped ridge and using an idealized unstable sounding with prescribed values of the relevant parameters.

In the present work the application of these theoretical results to observed cases of orographically forced convective rainfall including the Big Thompson flood (1976, Colorado), the Oahu flood (1974, Hawaii), and the Gard flood (2002, France) is reported. Specifically, numerical simulations have been carried out using observed and idealized soundings relevant to these cases but with idealized topography. It is found that using the observed soundings, but with idealized constant-wind profiles, the simulated rain rates fit reasonably well within the previous theoretically derived parameter space for intense orographic convective rainfall. However, in order to reproduce larger rainfall rates, in closer agreement with observations, in the first two cases it was necessary to initialize the sounding with a wind profile characterized by low-level flow toward the mountain with weak flow aloft (as observed for the across-mountain wind component). For the Gard case, the situation was more complex and it is found unlikely that the situation can be reduced to a simple two-dimensional problem.

Corresponding author address: Mario Marcello Miglietta, CNR-ISAC, Strada Provinciale Lecce-Monteroni, 73100 Lecce, Italy. E-mail: m.miglietta@isac.cnr.it

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

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