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A numerical investigation of mechanisms affecting drainage flows in highly Complex Terrain

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Numerical simulations of increasing complexity are conducted to investigate topographic controls and ambient wind effects upon drainage flows along a portion of the Colorado Front Range in the central Rocky Mountains. A series of two-dimensional simulations show the effects upon the drainage flow of changing slope gradient at the mountain-plain interface. For a given mountain slope, a decrease in the slope of the plain decelerates the mountain drainage jet as it approaches the plain and causes the jet to elevate. The integrated effects of slope and valley drainage are presented with particle trajectories for a particular drainage basin along the Front Range. A nested grid simulation of drainage flow from multiple basins along the Front Range shows that basin area is an important factor in the strength of the drainage flow and that canyon topography variations greatly affect the behavior of the drainage jet as it flows through the canyon mouth onto the plain. Strong drainage winds developed on each of four case night simulations due to the presence of only weak ambient wind below mountaintop. The weak winds represent a decoupling of the near-surface from stronger winds above mountaintop. The canyon drainage exhibited substantial temporal variability in wind speed with the inclusion of ambient winds, due to interactions between ambient and drainage winds.

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Bossert, J.E., Poulos, G.S. A numerical investigation of mechanisms affecting drainage flows in highly Complex Terrain. Theor Appl Climatol 52, 119–134 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00865511

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  • Grid Simulation
  • Drainage Flow
  • Nest Grid
  • Ambient Wind
  • Topographic Control