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Patrick A. Reinecke and Dale Durran


The tendency of high-resolution numerical weather prediction (NWP) models to overpredict the strength of vertically propagating mountain waves is explored. Discrete analytic mountain-wave solutions are presented for the classical problem of cross-mountain flow in an atmosphere with constant wind speed and stability. Time-dependent linear numerical solutions are also obtained for more realistic atmospheric structures. On one hand, using second-order-accurate finite differences on an Arakawa C grid to model nonhydrostatic flow over what might be supposed to be an adequately resolved 8Δx-wide mountain can lead to an overamplification of the standing mountain wave by 30%–40%. On the other hand, the same finite-difference scheme underestimates the wave amplitude in hydrostatic flow over an 8Δx-wide mountain. Increasing the accuracy of the advection scheme to the fourth order significantly reduces the numerical errors associated with both the hydrostatic and nonhydrostatic discrete solutions. The Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction System (COAMPS) model is used to generate two 70-member ensemble simulations of a mountain-wave event during the Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment. It is shown that switching from second-order advection to fourth-order advection leads to as much as a 20 m s−1 decrease in vertical velocity on the lee side of the Sierra Nevada, and that the weaker fourth-order solutions are more consistent with observations.

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Patrick A. Reinecke and Dale R. Durran


The sensitivity of downslope wind forecasts to small changes in initial conditions is explored by using 70-member ensemble simulations of two prototypical windstorms observed during the Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment (T-REX). The 10 weakest and 10 strongest ensemble members are composited and compared for each event.

In the first case, the 6-h ensemble-mean forecast shows a large-amplitude breaking mountain wave and severe downslope winds. Nevertheless, the forecasts are very sensitive to the initial conditions because the difference in the downslope wind speeds predicted by the strong- and weak-member composites grows to larger than 28 m s−1 over the 6-h forecast. The structure of the synoptic-scale flow one hour prior to the windstorm and during the windstorm is very similar in both the weak- and strong-member composites.

Wave breaking is not a significant factor in the second case, in which the strong winds are generated by a layer of high static stability flowing beneath a layer of weaker mid- and upper-tropospheric stability. In this case, the sensitivity to initial conditions is weaker but still significant. The difference in downslope wind speeds between the weak- and strong-member composites grows to 22 m s−1 over 12 h. During and one hour before the windstorm, the synoptic-scale flow exhibits appreciable differences between the strong- and weak-member composites. Although this case appears to be more predictable than the wave-breaking event, neither case suggests that much confidence should be placed in the intensity of downslope winds forecast 12 or more hours in advance.

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