1.1 100 Years of Progress on Mountain Meteorology Research (Invited Presentation)

Monday, 13 July 2020: 10:15 AM
Virtual Meeting Room
Ronald B. Smith, Yale University, New Haven, CT

Mountains significantly influence weather and climate on Earth including disturbed surface winds, altered distribution of precipitation, gravity waves reaching the upper atmosphere and modified global patterns of storms, fronts, jet streams and climate. All of these impacts arise because the Earth’s mountains penetrate deeply into the atmosphere. This penetration can be quantified by comparing mountain heights to several atmospheric reference heights such as density scale height, water vapor scale height, airflow blocking height and the height of natural atmospheric layers. The geometry of the Earth’s terrain can be analyzed quantitatively using statistical, matrix and spectral methods.

In this review, we summarize how our understanding of orographic effects has progressed over 100 years using the equations for atmospheric dynamics and thermodynamics, numerical modeling and many clever in situ and remote sensing methods. We explore how mountains disturb the surface winds on our planet including mountain top winds, severe downslope winds, barrier jets, gap jets, wakes, thermally generated winds and cold pools. We consider the variety of physical mechanisms by which mountains modify precipitation patterns in different climate zones. We discuss the vertical propagation of mountain waves through the troposphere into the stratosphere, mesosphere and thermosphere. Finally, we look at how mountains distort the global scale westerly winds that circle the poles and how varying ice sheets and mountain uplift and erosion over geologic time may have contributed to climate change.

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