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J. O. Pinto
,
D. B. Parsons
,
W. O. J. Brown
,
S. Cohn
,
N. Chamberlain
, and
B. Morley

Abstract

An enhanced National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) integrated sounding system (ISS) was deployed as part of the Vertical Transport and Mixing (VTMX) field experiment, which took place in October of 2000. The enhanced ISS was set up at the southern terminus of the Great Salt Lake Valley just north of a gap in the Traverse Range (TR), which separates the Great Salt Lake and Utah Lake basins. This location was chosen to sample the dynamic and thermodynamic properties of the flow as it passes over the TR separating the two basins. The enhanced ISS allowed for near-continuous sampling of the nocturnal boundary layer (NBL) and low-level winds associated with drainage flow through the gap in the TR. Diurnally varying winds were observed at the NCAR site on days characterized by weak synoptic forcing and limited cloud cover. A down-valley jet (DVJ) was observed on about 50% of the nights during VTMX, with the maximum winds usually occurring within 150 m of the surface. The DVJ was associated with abrupt warming at low levels as a result of downward mixing and vertical transport of warm air from the inversion layer above. Several processes were observed to contribute to vertical transport and mixing at the NCAR site. Pulses in the strength of the DVJ contributed to vertical transport by creating localized areas of low-level convergence. Gravity waves and Kelvin–Helmholtz waves, which facilitated vertical mixing near the surface and atop the DVJ, were observed with a sodar and an aerosol backscatter lidar that were deployed as part of the enhanced ISS. The nonlocal nature of the processes responsible for generating turbulence in strongly stratified surface layers in complex terrain confounds surface flux parameterizations typically used in mesoscale models that rely on Monin–Obukhov similarity theory. This finding has major implications for modeling NBL structure and drainage flows in regions of complex terrain.

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