11.6 Winter Precipitation Efficiency of Mountain Ranges in the Colorado Rockies under Climate Change

Thursday, 28 June 2018: 9:45 AM
Lumpkins Ballroom (La Fonda on the Plaza)
Trude Eidhammer, NCAR, Boulder, CO; and V. Grubišić, R. Rasmussen, and K. Ikeda

Orographic precipitation depends on the environmental conditions and the barrier shape. In this study, we examine the sensitivity of the precipitation efficiency to mountain shape, temperature, stability, and horizontal velocity of the incoming air mass. The precipitation efficiency is expressed through drying ratio (DR), defined as the ratio of precipitation to incoming water flux. Furthermore, we explore how the DR of Colorado mountain ranges might change under warmer and moister conditions in the future.

For given environmental conditions, we find the DR to be primarily dependent on the upwind slope for mountain ranges wider than about 70 km, and on both the slope and width for narrower ranges. Temperature is found to exert an influence on the DR for all Colorado mountain ranges, with DR decreasing with increasing temperature, under both the current and future climate conditions. The percentwise decrease of DR for all examined mountain ranges is about 4% K-1. In comparison, the increase in precipitation is about 6% K-1 while the vapor flux increase is about 9% K-1. The decrease of DR with temperature under warmer climate was found to be stronger for wider mountains than the narrower ones. We attribute this asymmetry to the sensitivity of DR to reduced horizontal velocity under warmer conditions. Specifically, while DR for wider mountains shows no sensitivity to changes in horizontal velocity, the DR for narrow ranges increases as the horizontal velocity decreases and more time is provided for precipitation to form. Thus, for narrower ranges, the horizontal velocity appears to offset the temperature effect slightly.

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