The Effects of Mountain Lee Waves on the Transport of Liquid Propane-Generated Ice Crystals

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  • 1 U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation, Sacramento, California
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Abstract

A combination of rawinsonde balloon ascent rates, low-elevation aircraft, and ground-based tracer sampling measurements are presented. These data indicate that mountain-induced gravity waves have a significant impact on the transport of ice crystals produced by the release of liquid propane from high-altitude dispensers along the crest of the northern Sierra Nevada in California. Special rawinsonde launches were made just downwind of the main Sierra Nevada crest. Balloon ascent rates show a very well defined mountain lee wave present during most precipitation events. Strong descent to the lee of the Sierra will thus have a detrimental effect on the growth of particles generated on the crest. The tracer SF6 (sulfur hexaflouride) is used to simulate the transport and dispersion of propane-generated ice crystals. Sulfur hexaflouride was released from two propane dispenser sites as a proxy for seeded ice crystals. Aircraft measurements of SF6 indicated that at the normal flight altitudes of 2500 m over the downwind valley and 2800 m over the downwind ridge the aircraft was flying near the top of the plumes. When the aircraft was able to fly below cloud base, near the release altitude of 2200 m, substantial SF6 was observed. The lower portion of the plume was also observed to descend into the valley some 700 m below the release altitude. A simple two-dimensional model is used to determine the impact that these gravity waves have on particle trajectories. Model output is presented for one well-documented seeding case to determine how well such models might be used operationally to predict particle trajectories downwind of the Sierra.

Abstract

A combination of rawinsonde balloon ascent rates, low-elevation aircraft, and ground-based tracer sampling measurements are presented. These data indicate that mountain-induced gravity waves have a significant impact on the transport of ice crystals produced by the release of liquid propane from high-altitude dispensers along the crest of the northern Sierra Nevada in California. Special rawinsonde launches were made just downwind of the main Sierra Nevada crest. Balloon ascent rates show a very well defined mountain lee wave present during most precipitation events. Strong descent to the lee of the Sierra will thus have a detrimental effect on the growth of particles generated on the crest. The tracer SF6 (sulfur hexaflouride) is used to simulate the transport and dispersion of propane-generated ice crystals. Sulfur hexaflouride was released from two propane dispenser sites as a proxy for seeded ice crystals. Aircraft measurements of SF6 indicated that at the normal flight altitudes of 2500 m over the downwind valley and 2800 m over the downwind ridge the aircraft was flying near the top of the plumes. When the aircraft was able to fly below cloud base, near the release altitude of 2200 m, substantial SF6 was observed. The lower portion of the plume was also observed to descend into the valley some 700 m below the release altitude. A simple two-dimensional model is used to determine the impact that these gravity waves have on particle trajectories. Model output is presented for one well-documented seeding case to determine how well such models might be used operationally to predict particle trajectories downwind of the Sierra.

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