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Mountain wave breaking in atmospheric flows with directional wind shear

Guarino, M. V. (2017) Mountain wave breaking in atmospheric flows with directional wind shear. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Abstract/Summary

In this thesis, mountain wave breaking triggered by directional wind shear is investigated using numerical simulations of idealized and semi-idealized orographic flows. Idealized simulations are used to produce a regime diagram to diagnose conditions for wave breaking in Richardson number-dimensionless mountain height parameter space. It is found that, in the presence of directional shear, wave breaking can occur over lower mountains than in a constant-wind case. Furthermore, the extent of regions within the simulation domain where Clear-Air Turbulence (CAT) is expected 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. This condition provides a possible diagnostic for CAT forecast in directional shear flows. The stability of the flow to wave breaking in the transition from hydrostatic to nonhydrostatic mountain waves is also investigated. Wave breaking seems to be inhibited by non-hydrostatic effects for weak wind shear, but enhanced for stronger wind shear. In the second part of the thesis, a turbulence encounter observed over the Rocky Mountains (in Colorado, USA) is studied. The role of directional shear in causing wave breaking is isolated from other possible wave breaking mechanisms through various sensitivity tests. The existence of an asymptotic wake, as predicted by Shutts for directional shear flows, is hypothesized to be responsible for a significant downwind transport of unstable air detected in cross-sections of the flow. Finally, critical levels induced by directional shear are studied by spectral analysis of the horizontal velocity wave perturbations. This is done for a fully idealized flow and for the more realistic flow corresponding to the investigated turbulence encounter. In these 2D power spectra, a rotation of the most energetic wave modes with the background wind and their selective absorption can be found. Such behaviour is consistent with the mechanism leading to wave breaking in directional shear flows.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Teixeira, M. and Ambaum, M.
Thesis/Report Department:Department of Meteorology
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:75850

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