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  • Author or Editor: Matthew E. Jeglum x
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Matthew E. Jeglum, Sebastian W. Hoch, Derek D. Jensen, Reneta Dimitrova, and Zachariah Silver

Abstract

Large temperature fluctuations (LTFs), defined as a drop of the near-surface temperature of at least 3°C in less than 30 min followed by a recovery of at least half of the initial drop, were frequently observed during the Mountain Terrain Atmospheric Modeling and Observations (MATERHORN) program. Temperature time series at over 100 surface stations were examined in an automated fashion to identify and characterize LTFs. LTFs occur almost exclusively at night and at locations elevated 50–100 m above the basin floors, such as the east slope of the isolated Granite Mountain (GM). Temperature drops associated with LTFs were as large as 13°C and were typically greatest at heights of 4–10 m AGL. Observations and numerical simulations suggest that LTFs are the result of complex flow interactions of stably stratified flow with a mountain barrier and a leeside cold-air pool (CAP). An orographic wake forms over GM when stably stratified southwesterly nocturnal flow impinges on GM and is blocked at low levels. Warm crest-level air descends in the lee of the barrier, and the generation of baroclinic vorticity leads to periodic development of a vertically oriented vortex. Changes in the strength or location of the wake and vortex cause a displacement of the horizontal temperature gradient along the slope associated with the CAP edge, resulting in LTFs. This mechanism explains the low frequency of LTFs on the west slope of GM as well as the preference for LTFs to occur at higher elevations later at night, as the CAP depth increases.

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