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Vanda Grubišić
and
John M. Lewis

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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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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Yanping Li
,
Ronald B. Smith
, and
Vanda Grubišić

Abstract

Harmonic analysis has been applied to data from nearly 1000 Automatic Surface Observation System (ASOS) stations over the United States to extract diurnal pressure signals. The largest diurnal pressure amplitudes (∼200 Pa) and the earliest phases (∼0600 LST for surface pressure maximum) were found for stations located within deep mountain valleys in the western United States. The origin of these unique characteristics of valley pressure signals is examined with a detailed study of Owens Valley, California. Analysis of observational data from the Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment (T-REX) project shows that the ratio of the valley surface pressure to temperature amplitude can be used to estimate the daily maximum mixed-layer depth H. On days with strong westerly winds above the valley, the mixed layer is found to be shallower than on quiescent days because of a flushing effect in the upper parts of the valley. Idealized two-dimensional Weather Research and Forecasting Model simulations were used to explain the pressure signal. In agreement with observations, the simulations show a 3-h difference between the occurrence of a surface pressure minimum (1800 LST) and a surface temperature maximum (1500 LST). The resolved energy budget analysis reveals that this time lag is caused by the persistence of subsidence warming in the upper part of the valley after the surface begins to cool. Sensitivity tests for different valley depths and seasons show that the relative height of the mixed-layer depth with respect to the valley depth, along with the valley width-to-depth ratio, determine whether the diurnal valley circulation is a “confined” system or an “open” system. The open system has a smaller pressure amplitude and an earlier pressure phase.

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Vanda Grubišić
,
Ronald B. Smith
, and
Christoph Schär

Abstract

The effect of bottom friction on fluid flow past an isolated obstacle is investigated in the shallow-water framework. The controlling parameter for this effect is the nondimensional bottom friction number, defined as a ratio of friction to inertia. With the bottom stress related to the horizontal wind via standard bulk aerodynamic formula, the friction number is proportional to the surface roughness, the horizontal scale of the obstacle, and the inverse of the upstream fluid depth. Thus, under otherwise identical conditions, the flow past larger obstacles will be more “viscous.” Bottom friction modifies the vorticity generation in several ways, but under normal conditions, the wake formation remains dominated by a pseudoinviscid process related to the presence of hydraulic jumps. However, friction strongly controls the velocity-deficit region of the wake and thus influences the stability of the steady-state wakes. Predictions of the linear stability analysis are compared with numerical simulations of the eddy-shedding development under the stabilizing effect of friction. For the values of friction parameter for which linear theory predicts that the flow should be absolutely stable, fully nonlinear numerical evolutions indeed reach a stable quasi-stationary state. For a realistic value of bottom friction, the simulation of the flow past the island of Hawaii produces a wake that is consistent with the recent observations.

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Piotr K. Smolarkiewicz
,
Vanda Grubis̄ić
, and
Len G. Margolin

Abstract

In this note, the authors address the practical issue of selecting appropriate stopping criteria for iterative solutions to the elliptic pressure equation arising in nonoscillatory, forward-in-time Eulerian and semi-Lagrangian anelastic fluid models. Using the simple computational example of 2D thermal convection in a neutrally stratified Boussinesq fluid, it is shown that (a) converging to the machine precision is not necessary for the overall accuracy and stability of the model, and adversely affects the overall model efficiency; and (b) the semi-Lagrangian model algorithm admits fairly liberal stopping criteria compared to the Eulerian flux-form model, unless the latter is formulated in terms of field perturbations.

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

Abstract

Measurements from the National Science Foundation/National Center for Atmospheric Research (NSF/NCAR) Gulfstream V (G-V) obtained during the recent Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment (T-REX) indicate marked differences in the character of the wave response between repeated flight tracks across the Sierra Nevada, which were separated by a distance of approximately 50 km. Observations from several of the G-V research flights indicate that the vertical velocities in the primary wave exhibited variations up to a factor of 2 between the southern and northern portions of the racetrack flight segments in the lower stratosphere, with the largest amplitude waves most often occurring over the southern flight leg, which has a terrain maximum that is 800 m lower than the northern leg. Multiple racetracks at 11.7- and 13.1-km altitudes indicate that these differences were repeatable, which is suggestive that the deviations were likely due to vertically propagating mountain waves that varied systematically in amplitude rather than associated with transients. The cross-mountain horizontal velocity perturbations are also a maximum above the southern portion of the Sierra Nevada ridge.

Real data and idealized nonhydrostatic numerical model simulations are used to test the hypothesis that the observed variability in the wave amplitude and characteristics in the along-barrier direction is a consequence of blocking by the three-dimensional Sierra Nevada and the Coriolis effect. The numerical simulation results suggest that wave launching is sensitive to the overall three-dimensional characteristics of the Sierra Nevada barrier, which has an important impact on the wave amplitude and characteristics in the lower stratosphere. Real-time high-resolution Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction System (COAMPS) forecasts successfully capture the along-barrier variations in the wave amplitude (using vertical velocity as a proxy) as well as skillfully distinguishing between large- and small-amplitude stratospheric wave events during T-REX.

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Vanda Grubišić
,
Ramesh K. Vellore
, and
Arlen W. Huggins

Abstract

The skill of a mesoscale model in predicting orographic precipitation during high-impact precipitation events in the Sierra Nevada, and the sensitivity of that skill to the choice of the microphysical parameterization and horizontal resolution, are examined. The fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research (PSU–NCAR) Mesoscale Model (MM5) and four bulk microphysical parameterization schemes examined are the Dudhia ice scheme, and the Schultz, GSFC, and Reisner2 mixed-phase schemes. The verification dataset consists of ground precipitation measurements from a selected number of wintertime heavy precipitation events documented during the Sierra Cooperative Pilot Project in the 1980s. At high horizontal resolutions, the predicted spatial precipitation patterns on the upwind Sierra Nevada slopes were found to have filamentary structure, with precipitation amounts over the transverse upwind ridges exceeding severalfold those over the nearby deep river valleys. The verification results show that all four tested bulk microphysical schemes in MM5 produce overprediction of precipitation on both the windward and lee slopes of the Sierra Nevada. The examined accuracy measures indicate that the Reisner2 scheme displays the best overall performance on both sides of the mountain range. The examined statistical skill scores on the other hand reveal that, regardless of the microphysical scheme used, the skill of the MM5 model in predicting the observed spatial distribution of the Sierra Nevada orographic precipitation is fairly low, that this skill is not improved by increasing the horizontal resolution of the model simulations, and that on average the quantitative precipitation forecasting (QPF) skill is better on the windward than on the lee side. Furthermore, a significance test shows that differences in skill scores obtained with the four microphysical schemes are not statistically significant.

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Kristian Horvath
,
Stjepan Ivatek-Šahdan
,
Branka Ivančan-Picek
, and
Vanda Grubišić

Abstract

While statistical analyses and observations show that severe bora with maximum gusts exceeding 40 m s−1 can occur in all parts of the Adriatic, the bora research to date has been mainly focused on the dynamics and structure of severe bora in the northern Adriatic. Examined to a significantly lesser degree is a less predictable counterpart in the southern Adriatic, where the Dinaric Alps are higher, broader, and steeper, and where the upwind bora layer is generally less well defined. Identification of the main differences in the sequence of mesoscale and macroscale events leading to the onset of bora in the northern and southern parts of the eastern Adriatic is of fundamental importance for its forecasting. To this end, presented here is a comparative analysis of the evolution and structure of two typical severe cyclonic bora events—one “northern” (7–8 November 1999) and one “southern” (6–7 May 2005) event. The analysis utilizes airborne, radiosonde, and ground-based observations, as well as the hydrostatic Aire Limitée Adaptation Dynamique Developement International (ALADIN/HR) mesoscale model simulations.

It is shown that the development of a severe bora in both the northern and southern Adriatic is critically dependent on the synoptic setting to create an optimal set of environmental conditions. For severe bora in the northern Adriatic, these conditions include a strong forcing of the northeasterly low-level jet and pronounced discontinuities in the upstreamflow structure that promote layering, such as lower- to midtropospheric inversions and environmental critical levels. The development of severe bora in the southern Adriatic is crucially dependent on the establishment of a considerably deeper upstream layer that is able to overcome the strong blocking potential of the southern Dinaric Alps. While the upstream layering is less pronounced, it is closely tied to the presence of a cyclone in the southern Adriatic or over the southern Balkan peninsula.

The upstream atmospheric layering is shown to strongly modulate bora behavior, and different phases of severe bora, related to the presence or absence of upstream layering, are shown to occur within a single bora episode. Furthermore, the presence of a mountain-parallel upper-level jet aloft appears to impede severe bora development in both the northern and southern Adriatic.

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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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Željko Večenaj
,
Stephan F. J. De Wekker
, and
Vanda Grubišić

Abstract

A case study of mountain-wave-induced turbulence observed during the Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment (T-REX) in Owens Valley, California, is presented. During this case study, large spatial and temporal variability in aerosol backscatter associated with mountain-wave activity was observed in the valley atmosphere by an aerosol lidar. The corresponding along- and cross-valley turbulence structure was investigated using data collected by three 30-m flux towers equipped with six levels of ultrasonic anemometers. Time series of turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) show higher levels of TKE on the sloping western part of the valley when compared with the valley center. The magnitude of the TKE is highly dependent on the averaging time on the western slope, however, indicating that mesoscale transport associated with mountain-wave activity is important here. Analysis of the TKE budget shows that in the central parts of the valley mechanical production of turbulence dominates and is balanced by turbulent dissipation, whereas advective effects appear to play a dominant role over the western slope. In agreement with the aerosol backscatter observations, spatial variability of a turbulent-length-scale parameter suggests the presence of larger turbulent eddies over the western slope than along the valley center. The data and findings from this case study can be used to evaluate the performance of turbulence parameterization schemes in mountainous terrain.

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