6.4 What Causes Weak Orographic Rain Shadows? Insights from Case Studies in the Cascades and Idealized Simulations

Tuesday, 28 June 2016: 11:15 AM
Adirondack ABC (Hilton Burlington )
Nicholas T. Siler, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA; and D. R. Durran

Recent studies have shown that weak rain shadows in the Cascade Mountains are associated with passing warm fronts, but little is known about the specific mechanisms responsible for this connection. Here these mechanisms are investigated through numerical simulations involving real and idealized topography. Storms with weak rain shadows are found to exhibit much weaker mountain waves in the lee of the Cascades than storms with strong rain shadows, with correspondingly weaker lee-side evaporation. The muted wave activity during weak-rain-shadow storms is found to be caused by cold, zonally-stagnant air at low levels in the lee, which precedes the warm front, and remains in place as the progression of the front is impeded by the mountains. As the front brings warmer air aloft, the static stability of the zonally-stagnant layer increases, making it more resistant to erosion by the overlying flow. This in turn allows the weak rain shadow to persist long after the front has passed.
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