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Jinwon Kim
Hyun-Suk Kang


To understand the influence of the Sierra Nevada on the water cycle in California the authors have analyzed low-level winds and water vapor fluxes upstream of the mountain range in regional climate model simulations. In a low Froude number (Fr) regime, the upstream low-level wind disturbances are characterized by the rapid weakening of the crosswinds and the appearance of a stagnation point over the southwestern foothills. The weakening of the low-level inflow is accompanied by the development of along-ridge winds that take the form of a barrier jet over the western slope of the mountain range. Such upstream wind disturbances are either weak or nonexistent in a high-Fr case. A critical Fr (Fr c ) of 0.35 inferred in this study is within the range of those suggested in previous observational and numerical studies. The depth of the blocked layer estimated from the along-ridge wind profile upstream of the northern Sierra Nevada corresponds to Fr c between 0.3 and 0.45 as well. Associated with these low-level wind disturbances are significant low-level southerly moisture fluxes over the western slope and foothills of the Sierra Nevada in the low-Fr case, which result in significant exports of moisture from the southern Sierra Nevada to the northern region. This along-ridge low-level water vapor transport by blocking-induced barrier jets in a low-Fr condition may result in a strong north–south precipitation gradient over the Sierra Nevada.

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