Vertical Dependence of Horizontal Scaling Behavior of Orographic Wind and Moisture Fields in Atmospheric Models

M. Eghdami, A. P. Barros

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous work showed that atmospheric model simulations exhibit different scaling behavior of vertically averaged horizontal wind (u,v) and moisture (q) in the mesoscales for convective (spectral slopes β~−5/3) and nonconvective (β~−11/5) conditions. Here, the focus is on the transient behavior of horizontal scaling in the vertical during the evolution of extreme orographic precipitation storms in middle (Appalachians, <2,500m) and high mountains (Andes). The results show that β exhibits a strong diurnal cycle switching between convective and nonconvective behavior following the space-time evolution of atmospheric stability in the lower troposphere (below 700 hPa) depending on latitude, topography, landform, and the synoptic environment. Anomalous flattening of the wind and moisture spectra (i.e., spectral saturation, ∣β ∣ < 5/3) at high wavenumbers and up to 200 hPa is tied to convective activity, where and when strong vertical motions develop, corresponding to an abrupt directional switch from horizontal energy transfer to vertical energy transfer including latent heating release and parameterized microphysical processes. In the small mesoscales (<50 km), β~ − 5/3 at all times up to 200 hPa with nighttime steepening (β~−11/5) below the orographic envelope where cold air pools form at low elevations and vertical motion weakens in the Appalachians. In the Andes, the scaling behavior exhibits a stronger diurnal cycle at low levels (below 700 hPa) with significant shoaling between tropical and high latitudes. Blocking and strong modification of regional circulations result in nighttime anisotropy at midlevels on the altitudinal profile along the North-South topographic divide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1957-1975
Number of pages19
JournalEarth and Space Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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