Evolution of cold-air-pooling processes in complex terrain

Paul Burns, C. Chemel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
337 Downloads (Pure)


Elucidating cold-air-pooling processes forms part of the longstanding problem of parametrizing the effects of complex terrain in larger-scale numerical models. The Weather Research and Forecasting model has been set-up and run at high resolution over an idealized alpine-valley domain with a width of order 10 km, to investigate the four-dimensional variation of key cold-air-pooling forcing mechanisms, under decoupled stable conditions. Results of the simulation indicated that the total average valley-atmosphere cooling is driven by a complex balance/interplay between radiation and dynamical effects. Three fairly distinct regimes in the evolution of cold-air-pooling processes have been identified. Starting about 1 h before sunset, there is an initial 30-min period when the downslope flows are initiated and the total average valley-atmosphere instantaneous cooling is dominated by radiative heat loss. A period of instability follows, when there is a competition between radiation and dynamical effects, lasting some 90 min. Finally, there is a gradual reduction of the contribution of radiative cooling from 75 to 37 %. The maximum cold-air-pool intensity corresponds to the time of minimum radiative cooling, within the period of instability. Although, once the flow is established, the valley atmosphere cools at broadly similar rates by radiation and dynamical effects, overall, radiation effects dominate the total average valley-atmosphere cooling. Some of the intricacies of the valley mixing have been revealed. There are places where the dynamics dominate the cooling and radiation effects are minor. Characteristics of internal gravity waves propagating away from the slopes are discussed
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-447
JournalBoundary-Layer Meteorology
Issue number3
Early online date1 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2014


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