Diurnal Circulation of the Bolivian Altiplano. Part II: Theoretical and Model Investigations

Zängl, Günther; Egger, Joseph
December 2005
Monthly Weather Review;Dec2005, Vol. 133 Issue 12, p3624
Academic Journal
The first step in the evolution of the diurnal circulation of grand plateaus is the matutinal buildup of inflow through mountain passes connecting the lowlands with the plateau proper. Maximum inward transport is attained in the afternoon. Corresponding observations at the Bolivian Altiplano are described in the first part of this paper. Here, both a linear model and the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–NCAR Mesoscale Model (MM5) are used to better understand the dynamics of this process. First discussed is the solution to the linear sea-breeze problem where a heated fluid layer is restricted to the half plane x ≤ 0. Rapidly moving barotropic modes lead to surface pressure fall in the heated half plane and to pressure rise for x ≥ 0. Slow baroclinic modes describe the horizontally expanding inflow toward the heated layer near the ground with return flow aloft. This basic structure of the response carries over to more complicated topographies where a heated plateau with vertical sidewalls is separated from the lowlands by a barrier and a pass. The baroclinic modes are fanning out from the pass into the plateau’s interior in linear numerical calculations. These flow patterns hardly change when additional slopes connect the plains and the plateau. The restrictions imposed by the linear approach are removed step by step in simulations with MM5 in which an idealized plateau with an optional pass is prescribed. There is good agreement with respect to the basic flow pattern, but the linear theory is found to overestimate inflow velocities because of its neglect of momentum and perturbation temperature advection. Moreover, a front moves from the pass into the plateau’s interior where the stratification is neutral or even unstable, a situation that is beyond the scope of the linear theory. The upslope winds evolving at the slope connecting the plateau with the lowlands are unimportant for the thermal circulation of the plateau, a result also suggested by the linear theory. Finally, simulations of the diurnal cycle are performed for the real topography of the Altiplano. The presentation of results concentrates on the observation sites. It is demonstrated that the idealized calculations help to better understand the resulting flows as well as the observations reported in Part I. The total inflow to the Altiplano is discussed as well.


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