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Vanda Grubišić and Brian J. Billings

Abstract

A large-amplitude lee-wave rotor event observationally documented during Sierra Rotors Project Intensive Observing Period (IOP) 8 on 24–26 March 2004 in the lee of the southern Sierra Nevada is examined. Mountain waves and rotors occurred over Owens Valley in a pre-cold-frontal environment. In this study, the evolution and structure of the observed and numerically simulated mountain waves and rotors during the event on 25 March, in which the horizontal circulation associated with the rotor was observed as an opposing, easterly flow by the mesonetwork of surface stations in Owens Valley, are analyzed.

The high-resolution numerical simulations of this case, performed with the Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction System (COAMPS) run with multiple nested-grid domains, the finest grid having 333-m horizontal spacing, reproduced many of the observed features of this event. These include small-amplitude waves above the Sierra ridge decoupled from thermally forced flow within the valley, and a large-amplitude mountain wave, turbulent rotor, and strong westerlies on the Sierra Nevada lee slopes during the period of the observed surface easterly flow. The sequence of the observed and simulated events shows a pronounced diurnal variation with the maximum wave and rotor activity occurring in the early evening hours during both days of IOP 8.

The lee-wave response, and thus indirectly the appearance of lee-wave rotor during the core IOP 8 period, is found to be strongly controlled by temporal changes in the upstream ambient wind and stability profiles. The downstream mountain range exerts strong control over the lee-wave horizontal wavelength during the strongest part of this event, thus exhibiting the control over the cross-valley position of the rotor and the degree of strong downslope wind penetration into the valley.

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