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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Orographic influences on the distribution and generation of atmospheric variability in a GCM.

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The effect of large-scale mountains on atmospheric variability is studied in a series of GCM experiments in which a single mountain is varied in height from 0 to 4 km. High-frequency (τ < 7 days) and low-frequency (τ > 30 days) variability are largest in the jet exit region, while the intermediate-frequency (7 < τ < 30 days) variability has its maximum upstream of the mountain where it exhibits enhanced equatorward propagation. High and intermediate frequencies change from zonal wave trains to localized wave packets as orographic forcing is increased, but they retain their characteristic scale and frequency. The dominant pattern of low-frequency is variability changes from a zonally symmetric oscillation, for which transient eddy-zonal flow interaction is the dominant mechanism, to a more localized oscillation of the jet downstream of the mountain. The transient eddy forcing still plays a significant role in maintaining the variations of this more localized jet, however.

The total amount of wave energy remains almost constant as the mountain height is increased, but the distribution of wave energy shifts from transient to stationary and from high frequencies to low frequencies. Low-frequency variability shows a step function response to orographic forcing in that it shows no response to a 1-km mountain, increases substantially in response to a 2-km mountain, and then shows little further increase as the mountain is raised to 3 and 4 km. This behavior suggests that the mechanism that generates the additional low-frequency variability in the mountain-forced experiments becomes effective after the zonal asymmetry reaches a critical value and then does not respond much to further increases in asymmetry.

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