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Wintertime Dispersion in a Mountainous Basin at Roanoke, Virginia: Tracer Study

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  • a Washington State University, Pullman, Washington
  • | b U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina
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Abstract

During January 1989, five nighttime SF6 tracer experiments were conducted in Roanoke, Virginia. The experiments were designed to help identify and understand the dispersion characteristics of a basin atmosphere during winter stagnation conditions. The basin studied was the Roanoke basin located on the eastern slopes of the Appalachian Mountains. This paper documents this tracer study and gives results from the experiment conducted on the night of 16–17 January 1989. A cold-air pool formed in the basin beginning after the evening transition period and filled to near the elevation of the lowest mountain barrier. A simple model of the ascent rate of the top of this cold-air pool is proposed. A sharp potential temperature jump was present at the top of this fully developed cold-air pool. Vertical measurements of tracer showed the initial ground-level plume to become elevated and ride over the top of the cold-air pool. Horizontal plume spread was enhanced over that expected from turbulent diffusion alone, by shear in wind-direction vertical profiles. The tracer concentrations within the cold-air pool increased slowly with time, even after the release was terminated. After sunrise, the elevated plume appeared to fumigate to the ground.

Abstract

During January 1989, five nighttime SF6 tracer experiments were conducted in Roanoke, Virginia. The experiments were designed to help identify and understand the dispersion characteristics of a basin atmosphere during winter stagnation conditions. The basin studied was the Roanoke basin located on the eastern slopes of the Appalachian Mountains. This paper documents this tracer study and gives results from the experiment conducted on the night of 16–17 January 1989. A cold-air pool formed in the basin beginning after the evening transition period and filled to near the elevation of the lowest mountain barrier. A simple model of the ascent rate of the top of this cold-air pool is proposed. A sharp potential temperature jump was present at the top of this fully developed cold-air pool. Vertical measurements of tracer showed the initial ground-level plume to become elevated and ride over the top of the cold-air pool. Horizontal plume spread was enhanced over that expected from turbulent diffusion alone, by shear in wind-direction vertical profiles. The tracer concentrations within the cold-air pool increased slowly with time, even after the release was terminated. After sunrise, the elevated plume appeared to fumigate to the ground.

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