The interaction of simulated squall lines with idealized mountain ridges

Jeffrey W. Frame, Paul Markowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Numerical simulations of squall lines traversing sinusoidal mountain ridges are performed using the Advanced Regional Prediction System cloud-resolving model. Precipitation and updraft strength are enhanced through orographic ascent as a squall line approaches a ridge. The simulated squall line then weakens as it descends the ridge because some of the cold pool is blocked by the terrain, resulting in less lift along the gust front and weaker convective cells. The flow within the cold pool accelerates slightly and the depth of the cold air decreases owing to upstream blocking, transitioning the flow in the cold pool head from subcritical to supercritical, then back to subcritical at the bottom of the ridge. A hydraulic jump forms when the flow transitions the second time, enabling the development of a new convective line downwind of the mountain. These new updrafts grow and eventually replace the older updrafts that weakened during descent. This process results in the discrete propagation of a squall line just downstream of a ridge, resulting in the formation of rain shadows downstream from topographic features. Discrete propagation only occurs if a ridge is of sufficient height, however. This replacement process repeats itself if a squall line encounters multiple ridges. The risk of damaging winds from a squall line is greater on the lee side of ridges and on the top of high ridges. These terrain-forced intensity fluctuations increase with mountain height, because the higher terrain permits even less cold air to flow over it. A wider ridge results in a more gradual orographic enhancement and downslope-induced weakening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1919-1941
Number of pages23
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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