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Thomas Spengler, Jan H. Schween, Markus Ablinger, Günther Zängl, and Joseph Egger


The summertime thermal circulation in the region of an asymmetric valley exit is investigated by means of observations and high-resolution model simulations. The northeastward-oriented Alpine Lech Valley opening into the Bavarian Alpine foreland has an eastern slope exceeding the western slope by about 15 km. Northerly winds along the eastern slope are frequently observed, reaching substantial strength during fair weather conditions. A field experiment has been conducted to explore this phenomenon and to pinpoint the connection of the northeasterly flow to the Lech Valley wind circulation. Numerical simulations have also been carried out to support the interpretation of the observations. It is found that the northerlies owe their existence to the dominantly easterly flow along the foothills of the Alps, which is partly induced by the Alpine heat low but may be strengthened by favorable synoptic conditions. Examples for both situations will be discussed. The diurnal flow in the Lech Valley has little obvious impact on these northeasterlies. On days with moderate synoptic easterly flow, a wake is present on the lee of the eastern slope of the exit region, accompanied by a shear zone along the edge of the wake. This shear zone is forced southward during the daytime because of thermally initiated pressure gradients between the Alpine foreland and the Alps, leading to sudden wind changes in the exit area at the time of its passage.

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