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Ricardo C. Muñoz
,
Mark J. Falvey
,
Marcelo Araya
, and
Martin Jacques-Coper

Abstract

The near-surface wind and temperature regime at three points in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile is described using two years of multilevel measurements from 80-m towers located in an altitude range between 2100 and 2700 m MSL. The data reveal the frequent development of strong nocturnal drainage flows at all sites. Down-valley, nose-shaped wind speed profiles are observed, with maximum values occurring at heights between 20 and 60 m AGL. The flow intensity shows considerable interdaily variability and a seasonal modulation of maximum speeds, which in the cold season can attain hourly average values of more than 20 m s−1. Turbulent mixing appears to be important over the full tower layer, affecting the curvature of the nighttime temperature profile and possibly explaining the observed increase of surface temperatures in the down-valley direction. Nocturnal valley winds and temperatures are weakly controlled by upper-air conditions observed at the nearest aerological station. Estimates of terms in the momentum budget for the development and quasi-stationary phases of the down-valley flows suggest that the pressure gradient force due to the near-surface cooling along the sloping valley axes plays an important role in these drainage flows. A scale for the jet nose height of equilibrium turbulent down-slope jets is proposed that is based on surface friction velocity and surface inversion intensity. At one of the sites, this scale explains about 70% of the case-to-case observed variance of jet nose heights. Further modeling and observations are needed, however, to define better the dynamics, extent, and turbulence structure of this flow system, which has significant wind-energy, climatic, and environmental implications.

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Julio C. Marín
,
Felipe Gutiérrez
,
Vittorio A. Gensini
,
Bradford S. Barrett
,
Diana Pozo
,
Martín Jacques-Coper
, and
Daniel Veloso-Aguila

Abstract

Tornadoes in Chile seem to develop in what are called “high-shear, low-CAPE” (HSLC) environments. An analysis of convective parameters from the ERA5 reanalysis during sixteen notable tornadoes in Chile showed that several increased markedly before the time of the reports. The significant tornado parameter (STP) was able to discriminate the timing and location of the tornadoes, even though it was not created with that goal. We established thresholds for the Severe Hazards in Environments with Reduced Buoyancy (SHERBE) parameter (≥1) and the STP (≤−0.3) to further identify days favorable for tornado activity in Chile. The SHERBE and STP parameters were then used to conduct a climatological analysis from 1959–2021 of the seasonal, interannual, and latitudinal variation of the environments that might favor tornadoes. Both parameters were found to have a strong annual cycle. The largest magnitudes of STP were found to be generally confined to south-central Chile, in agreement with the (sparse) tornado record. The probability of a day with both SHERBE and STP values beyond their thresholds was greatest between May and August, which aligns with the months with the most tornado reports. The number of days with both SHERBE and STP beyond their respective thresholds was found to fluctuate interanually. This result warrants further study given the known interannual variability of synoptic and mesoscale weather in Chile. The results of this study extend our understanding of tornado environments in Chile and provide insight into their spatio-temporal variability.

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