Observations of downslope winds and rotors in the Falkland Islands

Mobbs S, Vosper S, Sheridan P, Cardoso R, Burton R, Arnold S, Hill M, Horlacher V, Gadian A
Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 131, 329-351,

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A field campaign aimed at observing the near-surface flow field across and downwind of a mountain range on the Falkland Islands, South Atlantic, is described. The objective was to understand and eventually predict orographically generated turbulence. The instrumentation was based primarily on an array of automatic weather stations (AWSs), which recorded 30 s mean surface pressure, wind speed and direction (at 2 m), temperature and relative humidity for approximately one year. These measurements were supported by twice-daily radiosonde releases. The densest part of the AWS array was located to the south of the Wickham mountain range, across Mount Pleasant Airfield (MPA). In northerly flow the array provides a detailed study of the flow downwind of the mountain range. The dataset contains several episodes in which the flow downwind of the mountains is accelerated relative to the upwind flow. During some of these episodes short-lived (typically ~1 hour) periods of unsteady flow separation are observed and these are associated with the formation of rotors aloft. Such events present a significant hazard to aviation at MPA. Examination of radiosonde profiles suggests that the presence of a strong temperature inversion at a height similar to the mountain height is a necessary condition for both downwind acceleration and the formation of rotors. The data are used to show that the downwind fractional speed-up is proportional to the non-dimensional mountain height (based on upstream near-surface winds and a depth-averaged Brunt–Väisälä frequency diagnosed from radiosonde data). Similarly, a relationship is established between a quantity that describes the spatial variability of the flow downwind of the mountains and the upstream wind and depth-averaged Brunt–Väisälä frequency. The dependence of the flow behaviour on the Froude number (defined in the usual way for two-layer shallow-water flow) and ratio of mountain height to inversion height is presented in terms of a flow regime diagram.