Separating local topography from snow effects on momentum roughness in mountain regions

Parametrization of momentum surface roughness length in mountainous regions continues to be an active research topic given its application to improved weather forecasting and sub-grid scale representation of mountainous regions in climate models. A field campaign was conducted in the Val Ferret watershed (Swiss Alps) to assess the role of topographic variability and snow cover on momentum roughness. To this end, turbulence measurements in a mountainous region with and without snow cover have been analyzed. A meteorological mast with four sonic anemometers together with temperature and humidity sensors was installed at an elevation of 2500 m and data were obtained from October 2011 until May 2012. Because of the long-term nature of these experiments, natural variability in mean wind direction allowed a wide range of terrain slopes and snow depths to be sampled. A theoretical framework that accounted only for topographically induced pressure perturbations in the mean momentum balance was used to diagnose the role of topography on the effective momentum roughness height as inferred from the log-law. Surface roughness depended systematically on wind direction but was not significantly influenced by the presence of snow depth variation. Moreover, the wind direction and so the surface roughness influenced the normalized turbulent kinetic energy, which in theory should not depend on these factors in the near-neutral atmospheric surface layer. The implications of those findings to modeling momentum roughness heights and turbulent kinetic energy (e.g. in conventional K-epsilon closure) in complex terrain are briefly discussed.

Presented at:
AGU 2013, San Francisco, USA, December 9-13, 2013

 Record created 2014-03-10, last modified 2018-09-13

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