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Bradford S. Barrett
,
Dominique Bastine Krieger
, and
Caroline P. Barlow

Abstract

The majority of precipitation in central Chile falls during austral winter with the passage of surface and upper-level low pressure systems and their associated surface fronts. Earlier studies have found the presence of a terrain-parallel, low-level barrier jet during cold front passage and low-level wind convergence in the region of heaviest precipitation. This study advances these findings by developing multiyear climatologies for a rainfall event in central Chile using a broad cross section of observational datasets: the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS), the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) Global Surface Summary of the Day (GSOD), the Integrated Global Radiosonde Archive (IGRA), the Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT), and the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis. For this study, a precipitation event was defined as daily rainfall exceeding a certain threshold at a Santiago observing station (Pudahuel). Climatologies were developed for a five-day period surrounding the precipitation event: the three days leading up to the day of precipitation at Pudahuel, the day of the precipitation itself, and the day after. Precipitation was found to move northeastward over the southeast Pacific toward central Chile and increase in intensity upon reaching reached the coast between 33° and 40°S. At middle levels, a pronounced 500-hPa trough moved eastward and amplified during the same period, and at the surface, an area of low pressure deepened and followed the same path to the east. In the boundary layer and lower troposphere, winds at 925 and 850 hPa became exclusively north-northwesterly, suggesting the existence of a low-level jet, and surface winds backed with time and increased in speed ahead of a well-defined cold front wind shift. As these winds became more northwesterly ahead of the upper-level trough and surface low, precipitable water values increased, and a tongue of high precipitable water air intersected the coast at the same location as the region of heaviest precipitation. These climatologies, based on hundreds of cases, together provide strong confirmation that forcing associated with an eastward-progressing upper-level trough, a terrain-parallel low-level wind maximum, and an advancing surface cold front together constitute the complex, complementary mechanisms for precipitation in central Chile.

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