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R. Garreaud


Central Chile is a densely populated region along the west coast of subtropical South America (30°–36°S), limited to the east by the Andes. Precipitation is concentrated in austral winter, mostly associated with the passage of cold fronts. The freezing level over central Chile is typically between 1500 and 2500 m when precipitation is present. In about a third of the cases, however, precipitation occurs accompanied by warm temperatures and freezing levels above 3000 m, leading to a sizeable increment in the pluvial area of Andean basins and setting the stage for hydrometeorological hazards. Here, warm winter storms in central Chile are studied, including a statistical description of their occurrence and an estimate of their hydrological impacts. Remote-sensed data and high-resolution reanalysis are used to explore the synoptic-scale environment of a typical case, generalized later by a compositing analysis. The structure of warm storms is also contrasted with that of the more recurrent cold cases. Precipitation during warm events occurs in the warm sector of a slow-moving cold front because of the intense moisture flux against the mountains in connection with a land-falling atmospheric river. This is in turn driven by a strong zonal jet aloft and reduced mechanical blocking upstream of the Andes. On a broader scale, a key element is the presence of a slowly moving anticyclone over the south Pacific, fostering advection of cold air into midlatitudes. The intense and persistent zonal jet stretches a moist-air corridor from the central Pacific to the west coast of South America.

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R. Garreaud, M. Falvey, and A. Montecinos


The Nahuelbuta Mountains (NM) are a semielliptical massif 1300 m high in coastal southern Chile (37°–38°S) facing frontal storms that move from the Pacific. Mean precipitation between 900 and 1200 mm yr−1 is observed in the surrounding lowland, but river flow measurements suggest values ≥3000 mm yr−1 atop the mountains. To verify and characterize such marked orographic enhancement, 15 rain gauges were deployed around and over the NM. The observations were supplemented by a high-resolution WRF simulation and linear theory (LT) modeling during the winter of 2011. The estimated mean precipitation increases gradually from offshore (~1000 mm yr−1) to the north-facing foothills (2000 mm yr−1). The precipitation rapidly increases in the upslope sector to reach ~4000 mm yr−1 over the northern half of the NM elevated plateau, and decreases farther south to reach background values 20–30 km downstream of the mountains. The upstream (downstream) orographic enhancement (suppression) was relatively uniform among storms when considering event accumulations but varied substantially within each storm, with larger modifications during pre- and postfrontal stages and minor modifications during the brief but intense frontal passage. WRF results are in good agreement with observations in terms of seasonal and daily mean rainfall distributions, as well as temporal variability. Given its linear, steady-state formulation, the LT model cannot resolve rainfall variability at short (hourly) time scales, which in WRF is at least characterized by transient, mesoscale rainbands. Nonetheless, the rainbands are mobile so the accumulation field at monthly or longer time scales produced by the linear model is remarkably similar to its WRF counterpart.

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Adam K. Massmann, Justin R. Minder, René D. Garreaud, David E. Kingsmill, Raul A. Valenzuela, Aldo Montecinos, Sara Lynn Fults, and Jefferson R. Snider


The Chilean Coastal Orographic Precipitation Experiment (CCOPE) was conducted during the austral winter of 2015 (May–August) in the Nahuelbuta Mountains (peak elevation 1.3 km MSL) of southern Chile (38°S). CCOPE used soundings, two profiling Micro Rain Radars, a Parsivel disdrometer, and a rain gauge network to characterize warm and ice-initiated rain regimes and explore their consequences for orographic precipitation. Thirty-three percent of foothill rainfall fell during warm rain periods, while 50% of rainfall fell during ice-initiated periods. Warm rain drop size distributions were characterized by many more and relatively smaller drops than ice-initiated drop size distributions. Both the portion and properties of warm and ice-initiated rainfall compare favorably with observations of coastal mountain rainfall at a similar latitude in California. Orographic enhancement is consistently strong for rain of both types, suggesting that seeding from ice aloft is not a requisite for large orographic enhancement. While the data suggest that orographic enhancement may be greater during warm rain regimes, the difference in orographic enhancement between regimes is not significant. Sounding launches indicate that differences in orographic enhancement are not easily explainable by differences in low-level moisture flux or nondimensional mountain height between the regimes.

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