41 Quantitative estimation of turbulence intensity in mountain flows from airborne Doppler radar measurements

Wednesday, 11 June 2014
Palm Court (Queens Hotel)
Lukas Strauss, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria; and S. Serafin and V. Grubisic

In this study, we make use of airborne in situ and Doppler cloud radar measurements to estimate turbulence intensity in mountain flows, including gravity-wave breaking and atmospheric rotors. Our analysis is based on observations from a recent field campaign over the Medicine Bow Mountains in Southeastern Wyoming, USA, during which the University of Wyoming King Air (UWKA) research aircraft and the Wyoming Cloud Radar (WCR) were deployed.

The two turbulence indicators in use are the variance of vertical wind speed and the eddy-dissipation rate. In order to obtain physically meaningful measures of turbulence from the cloud radar, a thorough analysis of potential sources of error in the Doppler wind retrieval has proved essential. For instance, the pulse-volume averaging effect of the radar beam, the contamination of radial Doppler velocity by the horizontal wind due to changes in aircraft attitude, and the possible misalignment of the fixed radar beam need to be taken into account. The uncertainty resulting from these error sources limits the minimum detectable turbulence signal to approximately 0.16 m2 s-2 and 0.002 m2 s-3 for the variance of vertical wind speed and eddy-dissipation rate, respectively. As a consequence, only qualitative estimates of turbulence intensity can be obtained away from the most turbulent regions, while better than 20% accuracy can be achieved in regions of severe turbulence in the lee of the mountain.

Inspired by numerous historic and contemporary studies of lee-side “lower turbulent zones” associated with mountain gravity waves, our study provides new measures of turbulence intensity at unprecedented spatial resolution and accuracy. In good agreement with past investigations, “severe” turbulence (up to 15 m2 s-2 or 0.16 m2 s-3) is observed in the interior of an atmospheric rotor, and “moderate-to-severe” turbulence (up to 2.6 m2 s-2 or 0.023 m2 s-3) is encountered in a wave-breaking region at flight level.

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