The Sierra Wave Project was the first post–World War II (WWII) mountain meteorology field experiment in the United States designed to study mountain lee-wave phenomena. In its concept, design, organization, and execution, this Air Force–funded project served as an important predecessor of modern mesoscale field experiments proving clearly that mesoscale phenomena could be studied effectively by combining high-density ground-based and airborne observations. In this historical overview of the Sierra Wave Project, we set the scientific motivations for the experiment in their historical context, examine the coupling of the Air Force interests with the sport of soaring and the science of meteorology in this experiment, and evaluate the impact of the observational and theoretical programs of the Sierra Wave Project on the meteorological and aviation communities. We also provide a link to the related past investigations of mountain waves and an outlook for the future ones.

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Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nevada

National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma, and Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nevada