Precipitation over and near mountains is not caused by topography but, rather, occurs when storms of a type that can occur anywhere (deep convection, fronts, tropical cyclones) form near or move over complex terrain. Deep convective systems occurring near mountains are affected by channeling of airflow near mountains, capping of moist boundary layers by flow subsiding from higher terrain, and triggering to break the cap when low-level flow encounters hills near the bases of major mountain ranges. Mesoscale convective systems are triggered by nocturnal downslope flows and by diurnally triggered disturbances propagating away from mountain ranges. The stratiform regions of mesoscale convective systems are enhanced by upslope flow when they move over mountains. In frontal cloud systems, the poleward flow of warm-sector air ahead of the system may rise easily over terrain, and a maximum of precipitating cloud occurs over the first rise of terrain, and rainfall is maximum on ridges and minimum in valleys. If the low-level air ahead of the system is stable, blocking or damming occurs. Shear between a blocked layer and unblocked moist air above favors turbulent overturning, which can accelerate precipitation fallout. In tropical cyclones, the tangential winds encountering a mountain range produce a gravity wave response and greatly enhanced upslope flow. Depending on the height of the mountain, the maximum rain may occur on either the windward or leeward side. When the capped boundary layer of the eye of a tropical cyclone passes over a mountain, the cap may be broken with intense convection resulting.
Reviews of Geophysics
- Pub Date:
- January 2012
- Atmospheric Processes: Clouds and cloud feedbacks;
- Atmospheric Processes: Convective processes;
- Atmospheric Processes: Precipitation (1854);
- Atmospheric Processes: Tropical cyclones