Boundary-Layer Meteorology

, Volume 148, Issue 3, pp 439–454 | Cite as

Characterization of Oscillatory Motions in the Stable Atmosphere of a Deep Valley



In a valley sheltered from strong synoptic effects, the dynamics of the valley atmosphere at night is dominated by katabatic winds. In a stably stratified atmosphere, these winds undergo temporal oscillations, whose frequency is given by \(N \sin {\alpha }\) for an infinitely long slope of constant slope angle \(\alpha \), \(N\) being the buoyancy frequency. Such an unsteady flow in a stably stratified atmosphere may also generate internal gravity waves (IGWs). The numerical study by Chemel et al. (Meteorol Atmos Phys 203:187–194, 2009) showed that, in the stable atmosphere of a deep valley, the oscillatory motions associated with the IGWs generated by katabatic winds are distinct from those of the katabatic winds. The IGW frequency was found to be independent of \(\alpha \) and about \(0.8N\). Their study did not consider the effects of the background stratification and valley geometry on these results. The present work extends this study by investigating those effects for a wide range of stratifications and slope angles, through numerical simulations for a deep valley. The two oscillatory systems are reproduced in the simulations. The frequency of the oscillations of the katabatic winds is found to be equal to \(N\) times the sine of the maximum slope angle. Remarkably, the IGW frequency is found to also vary as \(C_\mathrm{w}N\), with \(C_\mathrm{w}\) in the range \(0.7\)\(0.95\). These values for \(C_\mathrm{w}\) are similar to those reported for IGWs radiated by any turbulent field with no dominant frequency component. Results suggest that the IGW wavelength is controlled by the valley depth.


Complex terrain Internal gravity waves Katabatic winds  Numerical simulations Stably stratified atmosphere 



The PhD Grant of YL was funded by the French Région Rhône-Alpes as part of the ‘Cluster Environnement’. YL and CS also acknowledge financial support from the French ‘Institut national des sciences de l’Univers’ (INSU) as part of the LEFE/IDAO Program. Time-consuming computations were performed thanks to the French IDRIS national supercomputing facilities.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yann Largeron
    • 1
  • Chantal Staquet
    • 1
  • Charles Chemel
    • 2
  1. 1.LEGI, UJF/CNRS/G-INPGrenoble cedex 9France
  2. 2.National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS), Centre for Atmospheric & Instrumentation Research (CAIR)University of HertfordshireHatfieldUK

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