Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Impact of topography on the diurnal cycle of summertime moist convection in idealized simulations


The impact of an isolated mesoscale mountain on the diurnal cycle of moist convection and its spatial variation is investigated. Convection-resolving simulations of flow over 3D Gaussian-shaped mountains are performed for a conditionally unstable atmosphere under diurnal radiative forcing. The results show considerable spatial variability in terms of timing and amount of convective precipitation. This variability relates to different physical mechanisms responsible for convection initiation in different parts of the domain. During the late morning, the mass convergence from the radiatively driven diurnal upslope flow confronting the large-scale incident background flow triggers strong convective precipitation over the mountain lee slope. As a consequence, instabilities in the boundary layer are swept out by the emerging cold pool in the vicinity of the mountain, and some parts over the mountain near-field receive less rainfall than the far-field. Over the latter, an unperturbed boundary-layer growth allows for sporadic convective initiation. Still, secondary convection triggered over the leading edge of the cold pool spreads some precipitation over the downstream near-field. Detailed analysis of our control simulation provides further explanation of this frequently observed precipitation pattern over mountains and adjacent plains. Sensitivity experiments indicate a significant influence of the mountain height on the precipitation pattern over the domain.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View