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Stefano Serafin and Rossella Ferretti

Abstract

The sensitivity of a mesoscale model to different microphysical parameterizations is investigated for two events of precipitation in the Mediterranean region, that is, the Mesoscale Alpine Program (MAP) intensive observation periods (IOP) 2b (19–21 September 1999) and 8 (20–22 October 1999). Simulations are performed with the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesoscale Model (MM5); the most commonly used bulk microphysical parameterization schemes are evaluated, with a particular focus on their impact on the forecast of rainfall. To evaluate the forecast skill, the verification is carried out quantitatively by using the observations recorded by a high-resolution rain gauge network during the MAP campaign. The results show that, for the surface rainfall forecast, all microphysical schemes produce a similar precipitation field and none of them perform significantly better than the others. The ability of different schemes to reproduce events with different ongoing microphysical processes is briefly discussed by comparing model simulations and knowledge of hydrometeor fields from radar observations. The vertical profiles of hydrometeors from two of the analyzed schemes show gross similarities with available radar observations. Last, the role of one of the parameterizations appearing in a typical bulk microphysical scheme, that is, the one of the snowfall speed, is evaluated in detail. Adjustments in the semiempirical relationships describing the fall speed of snow particles have a large impact, because a reduced snowfall speed enhances precipitation on the lee side of mountain ridges and diminishes it on the windward side. Anyway, this effect does not appear to be able to largely improve or reduce the forecast skill of the MM5 systematically; the impact of changes in the parameterization of the snow deposition velocity very likely depends on the dynamics of the event under investigation.

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Stefano Serafin and Dino Zardi

Abstract

The mechanisms governing the daytime development of thermally driven circulations along the transverse axis of idealized two-dimensional valleys are investigated by means of large-eddy simulations. In particular, the impact of slope winds and turbulent convection on the heat transfer from the vicinity of the ground surface to the core of the valley atmosphere is examined. The interaction between top-down heating produced by compensating subsidence in the valley core and bottom-up heating due to turbulent convection is described. Finally, an evaluation of the depth of the atmospheric layer affected by the slope wind system is provided.

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Stefano Serafin and Dino Zardi

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The development of a morning upslope flow is studied by means of idealized numerical simulations. In particular, two cases are examined: a plane slope connecting a lower plain and an elevated plateau and a symmetric mountain in the middle of a uniform plain. The analysis examines various steepness cases and aims at understanding the processes occurring in the area of transition between the upslope flow region and the convective boundary layers (CBLs) growing nearby. A characteristic sequence of events is recognized in the simulations, and their relationship with the along-slope variability of the thermal energy and turbulent kinetic energy budgets is studied. Features occurring after the onset of the upslope wind include a transient depression in the boundary layer depth at the base of the slope and the formation of elevated turbulent layers above the CBL, caused by the divergence of turbulent flow from a thermal plume at the slope top. Numerical evidence agrees well with the results of previous experiments, including both field campaigns and water tank models. It is observed that the occurrence of streamwise inhomogeneities in the upslope flow field favors the occurrence of a multilayered vertical structure of the CBL near heated slopes. Multiple layering appears to be a transient feature, only persisting until sufficient heating causes the merging of the CBL with the overlying elevated turbulent layers. The analysis suggests that the slope steepness is an important factor in determining the speed at which the boundary layer structure near a slope evolves in time: in particular, the development of the wind system appears to occur faster in the vicinity of a steeper slope.

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Stefano Serafin and Dino Zardi

Abstract

The daytime thermal structures of the valley boundary layer (VBL) and of the convective boundary layer (CBL) above a plain, as revealed by idealized large-eddy simulations, are compared. Simulations in the two environments consider similar thermal forcing, thus allowing an analysis of the atmospheric heating processes in the VBL and CBL in light of the volume-effect theory, traditionally invoked to explain the larger diurnal temperature ranges observed in valleys. It is found that, after an equal input of thermal energy, the atmospheric volumes affected by thermal perturbations in the CBL and in the VBL are comparable. Although the boundary layer top is higher in the VBL than in the CBL, the average VBL depth is approximately equal to the CBL depth, since the ground elevation is nonuniform in the valley. Accordingly, the volume-averaged potential temperature increments in the CBL and VBL are comparable. Nevertheless, surface air temperature variations are larger in the VBL, while differences in the thermal structures of the CBL and the VBL are found to be larger at elevated levels. These effects are related to the heat and mass transfer processes associated with upslope flows and midvalley subsidence. As far as the simulated CBL and VBL cases are representative of two asymptotic regions (respectively, far up valley and far over the plain) of a plain–valley system with a horizontal floor, their comparison provides insight in the mechanisms responsible for the generation of the pressure contrasts driving a daytime plain-to-valley wind at lower levels and possibly a valley-to-plain upper flow.

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Stefano Serafin, Lukas Strauss, and Vanda Grubišić

Abstract

A 5-yr climatology of westerly wind events in Owens Valley, California, is derived from data measured by a mesoscale network of 16 automatic weather stations. Thermally driven up- and down-valley flows are found to account for a large part of the diurnal wind variability in this approximately north–south-oriented deep U-shaped valley. High–wind speed events at the western side of the valley deviate from this basic pattern by showing a higher percentage of westerly winds. In general, strong westerly winds in Owens Valley tend to be more persistent and to display higher sustained speeds than strong winds from other quadrants. The highest frequency of strong winds at the valley floor is found in the afternoon hours from April to September, pointing to thermal forcing as a plausible controlling mechanism. However, the most intense westerly wind events (westerly windstorms) can happen at any time of the day throughout the year. The temperature and humidity variations caused by westerly windstorms depend on the properties of the approaching air masses. In some cases, the windstorms lead to overall warming and drying of the valley atmosphere, similar to foehn or chinook intrusions. The key dynamical driver of westerly windstorms in Owens Valley is conjectured to be the downward penetration of momentum associated with mountain waves produced by the Sierra Nevada ridgeline to the west of the valley.

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Lukas Strauss, Stefano Serafin, and Manfred Dorninger

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In this paper, a verification study of the skill and potential economic value of forecasts of ice accretion on wind turbines is presented. The phase of active ice formation on turbine blades has been associated with the strongest wind power production losses in cold climates; however, skillful icing forecasts could permit taking protective measures using anti-icing systems. Coarse- and high-resolution forecasts for the range up to day 3 from global (IFS and GFS) and limited-area (WRF) models are coupled to the Makkonen icing model. Surface and upper-air observations and icing measurements at turbine hub height at two wind farms in central Europe are used for model verification over two winters. Two case studies contrasting a correct and an incorrect forecast highlight the difficulty of correctly predicting individual icing events. A meaningful assessment of model skill is possible only after bias correction of icing-related parameters and selection of model-dependent optimal thresholds for ice growth rate. The skill of bias-corrected forecasts of freezing and humid conditions is virtually identical for all models. Hourly forecasts of active ice accretion generally show limited skill; however, results strongly suggest the superiority of high-resolution WRF forecasts relative to other model variants. Predictions of the occurrence of icing within a period of 6 h are found to have substantially better accuracy. Probabilistic forecasts of icing that are based on gridpoint neighborhood ensembles show slightly higher potential economic value than forecasts that are based on individual gridpoint values, in particular at low cost-loss ratios, that is, when anti-icing measures are comparatively inexpensive.

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Lukas Strauss, Stefano Serafin, and Vanda Grubišić

Abstract

The conceptual model of an atmospheric rotor is reexamined in the context of a valley, using data from the Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment (T-REX) conducted in 2006 in the southern Sierra Nevada and Owens Valley, California. All T-REX cases with strong mountain-wave activity have been investigated, and four of them (IOPs 1, 4, 6, and 13) are presented in detail. Their analysis reveals a rich variety of rotorlike turbulent flow structures that may form in the valley during periods of strong cross-mountain winds. Typical flow scenarios in the valley include elevated turbulence zones, downslope flow separation at a valley inversion, turbulent interaction of in-valley westerlies and along-valley flows, and highly transient mountain waves and rotors. The scenarios can be related to different stages of the passage of midlatitude frontal systems across the region. The observations from Owens Valley show that the elements of the classic rotor concept are modulated and, at times, almost completely offset by dynamically and thermally driven processes in the valley. Strong lee-side pressure perturbations induced by large-amplitude waves, commonly regarded as the prerequisite for flow separation, are found to be only one of the factors controlling rotor formation and severe turbulence generation in the valley. Buoyancy perturbations in the thermally layered valley atmosphere appear to play a role in many of the observed cases. Based on observational evidence from T-REX, extensions to the classic rotor concept, appropriate for a long deep valley, are proposed.

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Vanda Grubišić, Stefano Serafin, Lukas Strauss, Samuel J. Haimov, Jeffrey R. French, and Larry D. Oolman

Abstract

Mountain waves and rotors in the lee of the Medicine Bow Mountains in southeastern Wyoming are investigated in a two-part paper. Part I by French et al. delivers a detailed observational account of two rotor events: one displays characteristics of a hydraulic jump and the other displays characteristics of a classic lee-wave rotor. In Part II, presented here, results of high-resolution numerical simulations are conveyed and physical processes involved in the formation and dynamical evolution of these two rotor events are examined.

The simulation results reveal that the origin of the observed rotors lies in boundary layer separation, induced by wave perturbations whose amplitudes reach maxima at or near the mountain top. An undular hydraulic jump that gave rise to a rotor in one of these events was found to be triggered by midtropospheric wave breaking and an ensuing strong downslope windstorm. Lee waves spawning rotors developed under conditions favoring wave energy trapping at low levels in different phases of these two events. The upstream shift of the boundary layer separation zone, documented to occur over a relatively short period of time in both events, is shown to be the manifestation of a transition in flow regimes, from downslope windstorms to trapped lee waves, in response to a rapid change in the upstream environment, related to the passage of a short-wave synoptic disturbance aloft.

The model results also suggest that the secondary obstacles surrounding the Medicine Bow Mountains play a role in the dynamics of wave and rotor events by promoting lee-wave resonance in the complex terrain of southeastern Wyoming.

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Jeffrey R. French, Samuel J. Haimov, Larry D. Oolman, Vanda Grubišić, Stefano Serafin, and Lukas Strauss

Abstract

Two cases of mountain waves, rotors, and the associated turbulence in the lee of the Medicine Bow Mountains in southeastern Wyoming are investigated in a two-part study using aircraft observations and numerical simulations. In Part I, observations from in situ instruments and high-resolution cloud radar on board the University of Wyoming King Air aircraft are presented and analyzed. Measurements from the radar compose the first direct observations of wave-induced boundary layer separation.

The data from these two events show some striking similarities but also significant differences. In both cases, rotors were observed; yet one looks like a classical lee-wave rotor, while the other resembles an atmospheric hydraulic jump with midtropospheric gravity wave breaking aloft. High-resolution (30 × 30 m2) dual-Doppler syntheses of the two-dimensional velocity fields in the vertical plane beneath the aircraft reveal the boundary layer separation, the scale and structure of the attendant rotors, and downslope windstorms. In the stronger of the two events, near-surface winds upwind of the boundary layer separation reached 35 m s−1, and vertical winds were in excess of 10 m s−1. Moderate to strong turbulence was observed within and downstream of these regions. In both cases, the rotor extended horizontally 5–10 km and vertically 2–2.5 km. Horizontal vorticity within the rotor zone reached 0.2 s−1. Several subrotors from 500 to 1000 m in diameter were identified inside the main rotor in one of the cases.

Part II presents a modeling study and investigates the kinematic structure and the dynamic evolution of these two events.

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