Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Intensity, frequency and spatial configuration of winter temperature inversions in the closed La Brevine valley, Switzerland

Abstract

Some of the world’s valleys are famous for having particularly cold microclimates. The La Brevine valley, in the Swiss Jura Mountains, holds the record for the lowest temperature ever measured in an inhabited location in Switzerland. We studied cold air pools (CAPs) in this valley during the winter of 2014–2015 using 44 temperature data loggers distributed between 1033 and 1293 m asl. Our goals were to (i) describe the climatic conditions under which CAPs form in the valley, (ii) examine the spatial configuration and the temperature structure of the CAPs and (iii) quantify how often temperature inversions occur in winter using long-term series of temperature from the valley floor. Our results show that CAPs occurred every second night, on average, during the winter of 2014–2015 and were typically formed under cloudless, windless and high-pressure conditions. Strong temperature inversions up to 28 °C were detected between the valley floor and the surrounding hills. The spatial temperature structure of the CAPs varies among the different inversion days, with the upper boundary of the cold pool generally situated at about 1150 m asl. Although mean temperatures have increased in this area over the period 1960–2015 in connection with climate change, the occurrences of extreme cold temperatures did not decrease in winter and are highly correlated with the North Atlantic Oscillation and the East Atlantic indices. This suggests that CAPs in sheltered valleys are largely decoupled from the free atmosphere temperature and will likely continue to occur in the next decades under warmer conditions.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6

References

  1. Ai-liang J (1981) Temperature inversion and vegetation inversion in Xishuangbanna, Southwestern Yunnan, People’s Republic of China. Mt Res Dev 1:275–280

  2. Appenzeller C, Schwander J, Sommer S, Stocker T (1998) The North Atlantic Oscillation and its imprint on precipitation and ice accumulation in Greenland. Geophys Res Lett 25:1939–1942

  3. Barr S, Orgill MM (1989) Influence of external meteorology on nocturnal valley drainage winds. J Appl Meteorol 28:497–517

  4. Blennow K (1998) Modelling minimum air temperature in partially and clear felled forests. Agric For Meteorol 91:223–235

  5. Blennow K, Lindkvist L (2000) Models of low temperature and high irradiance and their application to explaining the risk of seedling mortality. For Ecol Manag 135:289–301

  6. Bodine D, Klein PM, Arms SC, Shapiro A (2009) Variability of surface air temperature over gently sloped terrain. J Appl Meteorol Climatol 48:1117–1141

  7. Cianfrani C, Satizábal HF, Randin C (2015) A spatial modelling framework for assessing climate change impacts on freshwater ecosystems: response of brown trout (Salmo trutta L.) biomass to warming water temperature. Ecol Model 313:1–12

  8. Daly C, Conklin DR, Unsworth MH (2010) Local atmospheric decoupling in complex topography alters climate change impacts. Int J Climatol 30:1857–1864

  9. Gudiksen P, Leone J Jr, King C, Ruffieux D, Neff W (1992) Measurements and modeling of the effects of ambient meteorology on nocturnal drainage flows. J Appl Meteorol 31:1023–1032

  10. Gustavsson T (1995) A study of air and road-surface temperature variations during clear windy nights. Int J Climatol 15:919–932

  11. Gustavsson T, Karlsson M, Bogren J, Lindqvist S (1998) Development of temperature patterns during clear nights. J Appl Meteorol 37:559–571

  12. Hänninen H (2016) The annual phenological cycle. In: Boreal and temperate trees in a changing climate: modelling the ecophysiology of seasonality. Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht, pp. 35–138

  13. Hurrell J, NCAR (2015) The climate data guide: Hurrell North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) Index (station-based). https://climatedataguide.ucar.edu/climate-data/hurrell-north-atlantic-oscillation-nao-index-station-based - sthash.fedwFYDc.dpuf.

  14. Hurrell JW, Deser C (2009) North Atlantic climate variability: the role of the North Atlantic Oscillation. J Mar Syst 78:28–41

  15. Iijima Y, Shinoda M (2000) Seasonal changes in the cold-air pool formation in a subalpine hollow, central Japan. Int J Climatol 20:1471–1483

  16. Karlsson IM (2000) Nocturnal air temperature variations between forest and open areas. J Appl Meteorol 39:851–862

  17. Kodra E, Steinhaeuser K, Ganguly AR (2011) Persisting cold extremes under 21st-century warming scenarios. Geophys Res Lett 38:L08705

  18. Kollas C, Randin CF, Vitasse Y, Körner C (2014) How accurately can minimum temperatures at the cold limits of tree species be extrapolated from weather station data? Agric For Meteorol 184:257–266

  19. Kunz H, Scherrer SC, Liniger MA, Appenzeller C (2007) The evolution of ERA-40 surface temperatures and total ozone compared to observed Swiss time series. Meteorol Z 16:171–181

  20. Lenz A, Hoch G, Vitasse Y (2016) Fast acclimation of freezing resistance suggests no influence of winter minimum temperature on the range limit of European beech. Tree Physiology

  21. Lenz A, Hoch G, Vitasse Y, Korner C (2013) European deciduous trees exhibit similar safety margins against damage by spring freeze events along elevational gradients. New Phytol 200:1166–1175

  22. Lundquist JD, Pepin N, Rochford C (2008) Automated algorithm for mapping regions of cold-air pooling in complex terrain. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 1984–2012:113

  23. Luterbacher J, Dietrich D, Xoplaki E, Grosjean M, Wanner H (2004) European seasonal and annual temperature variability, trends, and extremes since 1500. Science 303:1499–1503

  24. Michalet R, Rolland C, Joud D, Gafta D, Callaway RM (2003) Associations between canopy and understory species increase along a rainshadow gradient in the Alps: habitat heterogeneity or facilitation? Plant Ecol 165:145–160

  25. Miller DR, Bergen JD, Neuroth G (1983) Cold air drainage in a narrow forested valley. For Sci 29:357–370

  26. NOAA (2016) http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/data/teledoc/telecontents.shtml

  27. Price J et al (2011) COLPEX: field and numerical studies over a region of small hills. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 92:1636–1650

  28. R Core Team (2015) cianR: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. http://www.R-project.org/

  29. Rebetez M, Reinhard M (2008) Monthly air temperature trends in Switzerland 1901–2000 and 1975–2004. Theor Appl Climatol 91:27–34

  30. Rolland C (2003) Spatial and seasonal variations of air temperature lapse rates in Alpine regions. J Clim 16:1032–1046

  31. Scherrer SC (2006) Interannual climate variability in the European and Alpine region. PhD, ETH

  32. Scherrer SC, Appenzeller C (2014) Fog and low stratus over the Swiss Plateau—a climatological study. Int J Climatol 34:678–686

  33. Schmidli J, Poulos GS, Daniels MH, Chow FK (2009) External influences on nocturnal thermally driven flows in a deep valley. J Appl Meteorol Climatol 48:3–23

  34. Sheridan P, Vosper S, Brown A (2014) Characteristics of cold pools observed in narrow valleys and dependence on external conditions. Q J R Meteorol Soc 140:715–728

  35. Silcox GD, Kelly KE, Crosman ET, Whiteman CD, Allen BL (2012) Wintertime PM2.5 concentrations during persistent, multi-day cold-air pools in a mountain valley. Atmos Environ 46:17–24

  36. Smith S, Brown A, Vosper S, Murkin P, Veal A (2010) Observations and simulations of cold air pooling in valleys. Bound-Layer Meteorol 134:85–108

  37. Thompson B (1986) Small-scale katabatics and cold hollows. Weather 41:146–153

  38. Viers G (1990) Elément de climatologie. Nathan, Poitiers

  39. Vitasse Y, Lenz A, Koerner C (2014) The interaction between freezing tolerance and phenology in temperate deciduous trees. Frontiers in Plant Science 5:1–12

  40. Vosper S, Brown A (2008) Numerical simulations of sheltering in valleys: the formation of nighttime cold-air pools. Bound-Layer Meteorol 127:429–448

  41. Vosper S, Hughes J, Lock A, Sheridan P, Ross A, Jemmett-Smith B, Brown A (2014) Cold-pool formation in a narrow valley. Q J R Meteorol Soc 140:699–714

  42. Wanner H et al (2001) North Atlantic Oscillation—concepts and studies. Surv Geophys 22:321–381

  43. Whiteman CD, De Wekker SF, Haiden T (2007) Effect of dewfall and frostfall on nighttime cooling in a small, closed basin. J Appl Meteorol Climatol 46:3–13

  44. Whiteman CD, Haiden T, Pospichal B, Eisenbach S, Steinacker R (2004) Minimum temperatures, diurnal temperature ranges, and temperature inversions in limestone sinkholes of different sizes and shapes. J Appl Meteorol 43:1224–1236

  45. Williams R, Thorp T (2015) Characteristics of springtime nocturnal temperature inversions in a high latitude environment. Weather 70:S37–S43

  46. Zängl G (2005) Dynamical aspects of wintertime cold-air pools in an alpine valley system. Mon Weather Rev 133:2721–2740

Download references

Acknowledgments

Long-term temperature data for La Brevine and La Chaux-de-Fonds were provided by MeteoSwiss, the Swiss Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology. The measuring material and its installation were funded by the University of Neuchatel. The research leading to these results was funded by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN). We thank Barbara Huber and Ludwig Z’graggen for interesting discussions and for sharing their experience concerning CAPs and meteorological conditions in Switzerland. We also thank Christophe Randin for assistance in data analysis and Maureen Gurtner and Zoe Codeluppi for field assistance. We are grateful to the municipality of La Brevine and the landowners, farmers and valley inhabitants for allowing the installation of the data loggers and for field assistance.

Author information

Correspondence to Yann Vitasse.

Additional information

Y. Vitasse and G. Klein contributed equally to the manuscript and are therefore considered to be co-first authors.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Vitasse, Y., Klein, G., Kirchner, J.W. et al. Intensity, frequency and spatial configuration of winter temperature inversions in the closed La Brevine valley, Switzerland. Theor Appl Climatol 130, 1073–1083 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00704-016-1944-1

Download citation

Keywords

  • North Atlantic Oscillation
  • North Atlantic Oscillation Index
  • Temperature Inversion
  • Valley Floor
  • Strong Inversion