Scale Analysis of Marine Winds in Straits and along Mountainous Coasts

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  • 1 Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, NOAA, Seattle, WA 98115
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Abstract

The complicated wind regimes in straits which develop in response to difFerent large-scale pressure fields are investigated by scale analysis of the equations of motion. Adjustment of the mass and motion fields in straits O(lOs km) in width is governed by four nondimensional numbers: separate along- and cross-strait Rossby numbers, a strait drag coefficient, and a stratification parameter, which relates the internal Rossby radius of deformation to the width of the strait. The wind field is in approximate geostrophic balance with an imposed cross-channel pressure gradient. An along-channel pressure gradient is primarily balanced by ageostrophic acceleration of the wind field down the axis of the strait (the gap wind). Vertical motion and the accompanying horizontal divergence in the near-surface wind field can be large even for moderately stable stratification; as a consequence, there may be particularly abrupt transitions of the surface wind field at the exits of straits, where there is a rapid change of the scaling parameters to match coastal conditions.

The scale analysis also applies to open coasts with the Rossby radius of deformation replacing the width of the strait as the offshore length scale. For the mountainous coasts along Alaska, Canada and Norway, a typical Rossby radius is 0(80 km); within this distance an alongshore pressure gradient Will be principally balanced by the ageostrophic terms in the momentum equation. Since the coastal Rossby radius is smaller than the grid size of present numerical weather prediction models, geostrophic adjustment is not correctly modeled for landfalling storms along mountainous coasts.

Abstract

The complicated wind regimes in straits which develop in response to difFerent large-scale pressure fields are investigated by scale analysis of the equations of motion. Adjustment of the mass and motion fields in straits O(lOs km) in width is governed by four nondimensional numbers: separate along- and cross-strait Rossby numbers, a strait drag coefficient, and a stratification parameter, which relates the internal Rossby radius of deformation to the width of the strait. The wind field is in approximate geostrophic balance with an imposed cross-channel pressure gradient. An along-channel pressure gradient is primarily balanced by ageostrophic acceleration of the wind field down the axis of the strait (the gap wind). Vertical motion and the accompanying horizontal divergence in the near-surface wind field can be large even for moderately stable stratification; as a consequence, there may be particularly abrupt transitions of the surface wind field at the exits of straits, where there is a rapid change of the scaling parameters to match coastal conditions.

The scale analysis also applies to open coasts with the Rossby radius of deformation replacing the width of the strait as the offshore length scale. For the mountainous coasts along Alaska, Canada and Norway, a typical Rossby radius is 0(80 km); within this distance an alongshore pressure gradient Will be principally balanced by the ageostrophic terms in the momentum equation. Since the coastal Rossby radius is smaller than the grid size of present numerical weather prediction models, geostrophic adjustment is not correctly modeled for landfalling storms along mountainous coasts.

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