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Stephen A. Cohn, Vanda Grubiššićć, and William O. J. Brown

Abstract

A network of three boundary layer radar wind profilers is used to study characteristics of mountain waves and rotors and to explore the utility of such a network. The data employed were collected as part of the Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment (T-REX), which took place in Owens Valley, California, in early 2006. The wind profilers provide a continuous time––height representation of wave and rotor structure. During intensive observing period 3 (IOP 3), the profiler network was positioned in an L-shaped configuration, capturing key features of the mountain waves and rotor, including the boundary layer vortex sheet (or shear layer), turbulence within this shear layer, the classical lower turbulence zone (LTZ), and wave motion above the LTZ. Observed features were found to be in good agreement with recent high-resolution numerical simulations. Using the wind profiler with superior time resolution (Multiple Antenna Profiler Radar), a series of updraft––downdraft couplets were observed beneath the first downwind wave crest. These are interpreted as signatures of subrotors. Such detailed observations of subrotors are rare, even though subrotors are believed to be a common feature of rotor circulations in Owens Valley. During IOP 6, the network was repositioned to form a line across the valley. A simple algorithm was used to determine the amplitude, wavelength, and phase of the primary wave over the valley and to observe their changes over time and height. In the IOP-6 case, the wavelength increased over time, the phase indicated an eastward-shifting wave crest, and the amplitude increased with height and also varied over time.

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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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