The Evolution of Lee-Wave–Rotor Activity in the Lee of Pike’s Peak under the Influence of a Cold Frontal Passage: Implications for Aircraft Safety

Darby, Lisa S.; Poulos, Gregory S.
October 2006
Monthly Weather Review;Oct2006, Vol. 134 Issue 10, p2857
Academic Journal
A lee-wave–rotor system interacting with an approaching cold front in the lee of Pike’s Peak near Colorado Springs, Colorado, on 1 April 1997 is studied observationally and numerically. Dynamical effects associated with the approaching cold front caused the amplification of the evolving lee wave and rotor, creating increasingly more hazardous flight conditions for nearby airports. The rapidly evolving winds measured by a Doppler lidar and 915-MHz wind profilers, and simulated by the Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (RAMS), produced light-to-moderate turbulence for a research aircraft making missed approaches at the Colorado Springs Airport during the wave amplification phase. As the cold front approached the foothills, the lee-wave–rotor system ended abruptly, reducing hazardous flight conditions. The Doppler lidar’s detailed measurements of the lee-wave–rotor system allowed for an evaluation of RAMS ability to capture these complex wind features. Qualitative and quantitative comparisons between the lidar range–height measurements and model x–z cross sections are presented. In a broad sense, the numerical simulations were successful in the prediction of the prefrontal amplification and the postfrontal decay of the waves as measured by the lidar. RAMS also predicted observed wind reversals above the lee waves, which were indicators of breaking wave instability. At times RAMS performed poorly by over- or underpredicting the wind speeds in the lee wave, as well as the horizontal extent of the lee wave or rotor.


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