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Lukas Strauss, Stefano Serafin, and Vanda Grubišić

Abstract

The conceptual model of an atmospheric rotor is reexamined in the context of a valley, using data from the Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment (T-REX) conducted in 2006 in the southern Sierra Nevada and Owens Valley, California. All T-REX cases with strong mountain-wave activity have been investigated, and four of them (IOPs 1, 4, 6, and 13) are presented in detail. Their analysis reveals a rich variety of rotorlike turbulent flow structures that may form in the valley during periods of strong cross-mountain winds. Typical flow scenarios in the valley include elevated turbulence zones, downslope flow separation at a valley inversion, turbulent interaction of in-valley westerlies and along-valley flows, and highly transient mountain waves and rotors. The scenarios can be related to different stages of the passage of midlatitude frontal systems across the region. The observations from Owens Valley show that the elements of the classic rotor concept are modulated and, at times, almost completely offset by dynamically and thermally driven processes in the valley. Strong lee-side pressure perturbations induced by large-amplitude waves, commonly regarded as the prerequisite for flow separation, are found to be only one of the factors controlling rotor formation and severe turbulence generation in the valley. Buoyancy perturbations in the thermally layered valley atmosphere appear to play a role in many of the observed cases. Based on observational evidence from T-REX, extensions to the classic rotor concept, appropriate for a long deep valley, are proposed.

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Bowen Zhou and Fotini Katopodes Chow

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.

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Ivana Stiperski and Vanda Grubišić
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Ivana Stiperski and Vanda Grubišić

Abstract

Trapped lee wave interference over double bell-shaped obstacles in the presence of surface friction is examined. Idealized high-resolution numerical experiments with the nonhydrostatic Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction System (COAMPS) are performed to examine the influence of a frictional boundary layer and nonlinearity on wave interference and the impact of interference on wave-induced boundary layer separation and the formation of rotors.

The appearance of constructive and destructive interference, controlled by the ratio of the ridge separation distance to the intrinsic horizontal wavelength of lee waves, is found to be predicted well by linear interference theory with orographic adjustment. The friction-induced shortening of intrinsic wavelength displays a strong indirect effect on wave interference. For twin peak orography, the interference-induced variation of wave amplitude is smaller than that predicted by linear theory. The interference is found to affect the formation and strength of rotors most significantly in the lee of the downstream peak; destructive interference suppresses the formation and strength of rotors there, whereas results for constructive interference closely parallel those for a single mountain. Over the valley, under both constructive and destructive interference, rotors are weaker compared to those in the lee of a single ridge while their strength saturates in the finite-amplitude flow regime.

Destructive interference is found to be more susceptible to nonlinear effects, with both the orographic adjustment and surface friction displaying a stronger effect on the flow in this state. “Complete” destructive interference, in which waves almost completely cancel out in the lee of the downstream ridge, develops for certain ridge separation distances but only for a downstream ridge smaller than the upstream one.

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Bryan K. Woods and Ronald B. Smith

Abstract

In recent years, aircraft data from mountain waves have been primarily analyzed using velocity and temperature power spectrum and momentum flux estimation. Herein it is argued that energy flux wavelets (i.e., pressure–velocity wavelet cross-spectra) provide a more powerful tool for locating and classifying different types of mountain waves. In the first part of the paper, pressure–velocity cross-spectra using various linear mountain-wave solutions are shown to be capable of disentangling collocated waves with different propagation directions and wavelength. A field of group velocity vectors can also be determined.

In the second part, the energy flux wavelet technique is applied to five cases of mountain waves entering the stratosphere from the Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment (T-REX) in 2006. Perturbation pressure along the flight track is determined using aircraft static pressure corrected hydrostatically with GPS altitude. In four of the cases, collocated long up-propagating and short down-propagating waves are seen in the stratosphere. These waves have strong, but opposite, pw′ cospectra. In one of these cases, a patch of turbulence is collocated with the up and down waves. In two other cases, trapped waves riding on the tropopause inversion layer (TIL) are seen. These trapped waves have pw′ quadrature spectra that reverse sign across the tropopause. These newly discovered wave types may arise from secondary wave generation (i.e., a nonlinear transfer of energy from the long vertically propagating waves to shorter modes).

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Qingfang Jiang, James D. Doyle, Vanda Grubišić, and Ronald B. Smith

Abstract

Characteristics of turbulence in the lower and middle troposphere over Owens Valley have been examined using aircraft in situ measurements obtained from the Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment. The two events analyzed in this study are characterized by a deep turbulent layer from the valley floor up to the midtroposphere associated with the interaction between trapped waves and an elevated shear layer. Kelvin–Helmholtz (KH) instability develops above the mountaintop level and often along the wave crests where the Richardson number is reduced. The turbulence induced by KH instability is characterized by a progressive downscale energy cascade, a well-defined inertial subrange up to 1 km, and large eddies with vertical to horizontal aspect ratios less than unity. The turbulence below the mountaintop level is largely shear induced, associated with wave steepening and breaking, and is more isotropic. Evaluation of structure functions indicates that while the turbulence energy cascade is predominately downscale, upscale energy transfer exists with horizontal scales from a few hundred meters to a few kilometers because of the transient energy dispersion of large eddies generated by KH instability and gravity wave steepening or breaking.

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Michael Hill, Ron Calhoun, H. J. S. Fernando, Andreas Wieser, Andreas Dörnbrack, Martin Weissmann, Georg Mayr, and Robert Newsom

Abstract

Dual-Doppler analysis of data from two coherent lidars during the Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment (T-REX) allows the retrieval of flow structures, such as vortices, during mountain-wave events. The spatial and temporal resolution of this approach is sufficient to identify and track vortical motions on an elevated, cross-barrier plane in clear air. Assimilation routines or additional constraints such as two-dimensional continuity are not required. A relatively simple and quick least squares method forms the basis of the retrieval. Vortices are shown to evolve and advect in the flow field, allowing analysis of their behavior in the mountain–wave–boundary layer system. The locations, magnitudes, and evolution of the vortices can be studied through calculated fields of velocity, vorticity, streamlines, and swirl. Generally, observations suggest two classes of vortical motions: rotors and small-scale vortical structures. These two structures differ in scale and behavior. The level of coordination of the two lidars and the nature of the output (i.e., in range gates) creates inherent restrictions on the spatial and temporal resolution of retrieved fields.

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Patrick A. Reinecke and Dale R. Durran

Abstract

The sensitivity of downslope wind forecasts to small changes in initial conditions is explored by using 70-member ensemble simulations of two prototypical windstorms observed during the Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment (T-REX). The 10 weakest and 10 strongest ensemble members are composited and compared for each event.

In the first case, the 6-h ensemble-mean forecast shows a large-amplitude breaking mountain wave and severe downslope winds. Nevertheless, the forecasts are very sensitive to the initial conditions because the difference in the downslope wind speeds predicted by the strong- and weak-member composites grows to larger than 28 m s−1 over the 6-h forecast. The structure of the synoptic-scale flow one hour prior to the windstorm and during the windstorm is very similar in both the weak- and strong-member composites.

Wave breaking is not a significant factor in the second case, in which the strong winds are generated by a layer of high static stability flowing beneath a layer of weaker mid- and upper-tropospheric stability. In this case, the sensitivity to initial conditions is weaker but still significant. The difference in downslope wind speeds between the weak- and strong-member composites grows to 22 m s−1 over 12 h. During and one hour before the windstorm, the synoptic-scale flow exhibits appreciable differences between the strong- and weak-member composites. Although this case appears to be more predictable than the wave-breaking event, neither case suggests that much confidence should be placed in the intensity of downslope winds forecast 12 or more hours in advance.

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Vanda Grubišić and Ivana Stiperski

Abstract

Lee-wave resonance over double bell-shaped obstacles is investigated through a series of idealized high-resolution numerical simulations with the nonhydrostatic Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction System (COAMPS) model using a free-slip lower boundary condition. The profiles of wind speed and stability as well as terrain derive from observations of lee-wave events over the Sierra Nevada and Inyo Mountains from the recently completed Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment (T-REX).

Numerical experiments show that double bell-shaped obstacles promote trapped lee waves that are in general shorter than those excited by an isolated ridge. While the permissible trapped lee-wave modes are determined by the upstream atmospheric structure, primarily vertical wind shear, the selected lee-wave wavelengths for two obstacles that are close or equal in height are dictated by the discrete terrain spectrum and correspond to higher harmonics of the primary orographic wavelength, which is equal to the ridge separation distance. The exception is the smallest ridge separation distance examined, one that corresponds to the Owens Valley width and is closest to the wavelength determined by the given upstream atmospheric structure, for which the primary lee-wave and orographic wavelengths were found to nearly coincide.

The influence two mountains exert on the overall lee-wave field is found to persist at very large ridge separation distances. For the nonlinear nonhydrostatic waves examined, the ridge separation distance is found to exert a much stronger control over the lee-wave wavelengths than the mountain half-width. Positive and negative interferences of lee waves, which can be detected through their imprint on wave drag and wave amplitudes, were found to produce appreciable differences in the flow structure mainly over the downstream peak, with negative interference characterized by a highly symmetric flow pattern leading to a low drag state.

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James D. Doyle, Vanda Grubišić, William O. J. Brown, Stephan F. J. De Wekker, Andreas Dörnbrack, Qingfang Jiang, Shane D. Mayor, and Martin Weissmann

Abstract

High-resolution observations from scanning Doppler and aerosol lidars, wind profiler radars, as well as surface and aircraft measurements during the Terrain-induced Rotor Experiment (T-REX) provide the first comprehensive documentation of small-scale intense vortices associated with atmospheric rotors that form in the lee of mountainous terrain. Although rotors are already recognized as potential hazards for aircraft, it is proposed that these small-scale vortices, or subrotors, are the most dangerous features because of strong wind shear and the transient nature of the vortices. A life cycle of a subrotor event is captured by scanning Doppler and aerosol lidars over a 5-min period. The lidars depict an amplifying vortex, with a characteristic length scale of ∼500–1000 m, that overturns and intensifies to a maximum spanwise vorticity greater than 0.2 s−1. Radar wind profiler observations document a series of vortices, characterized by updraft/downdraft couplets and regions of enhanced reversed flow, that are generated in a layer of strong vertical wind shear and subcritical Richardson number. The observations and numerical simulations reveal that turbulent subrotors occur most frequently along the leading edge of an elevated sheet of horizontal vorticity that is a manifestation of boundary layer shear and separation along the lee slopes. As the subrotors break from the vortex sheet, intensification occurs through vortex stretching and in some cases tilting processes related to three-dimensional turbulent mixing. The subrotors and ambient vortex sheet are shown to intensify through a modest increase in the upstream inversion strength, which illustrates the predictability challenges for the turbulent characterization of rotors.

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