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Turbulence generation by mountain wave breaking in flows with directional wind shear

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Guarino, M. V., Teixeira, M. A. C. and Ambaum, M. H. P. (2016) Turbulence generation by mountain wave breaking in flows with directional wind shear. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 142 (700). pp. 2715-2726. ISSN 1477-870X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1002/qj.2862

Abstract/Summary

Mountain wave breaking, and the resulting potential for the generation of turbulence in the atmosphere, is investigated using numerical simulations of idealized, nearly hydrostatic atmospheric flows with directional wind shear over an axisymmetric isolated mountain. These simulations, which use the WRF-ARWmodel, differ in degree of flow non-linearity and shear intensity, quantified through the dimensionless mountain height and the Richardson number of the incoming flow, respectively. The aim is to diagnose wave breaking based on large-scale flow variables. The simulation results have been used to produce a regime diagram giving a description of the wave breaking behaviour in Richardson number–dimensionless mountain height parameter space. By selecting flow overturning occurrence as a discriminating factor, it was possible to split the regime diagram into sub-regions with and without wave breaking. When mountain waves break, the associated convective instability leads to turbulence generation (which is one of the known forms of Clear Air Turbulence, also known as CAT). Thus, regions within the simulation domain where wave breaking and the development of CAT are expected have been identified. The extent of these regions increases with terrain elevation and background wind shear intensity. Analysis of the model output, supported by theoretical arguments, suggest the existence of a link between wave breaking and the relative orientations of the incoming wind vector and the horizontal velocity perturbation vector. More specifically, in a wave breaking event, due to the effect of critical levels, the background wind vector and the wave-number vector of the dominant mountain waves are perpendicular. It is shown that, at least for the wind profile employed in the present study, this corresponds to a situation where the background wind vector and the velocity perturbation vector are also approximately perpendicular.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:65952
Uncontrolled Keywords:Gravity waves, Wave breaking, Turbulence, 3D mountains, Directional shear
Publisher:Royal Meteorological Society

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