Articles | Volume 18, issue 2
29 Feb 2000
29 Feb 2000

Mesoscale energetics and flows induced by sea-land and mountain-valley contrasts

S. Federico, G. A. Dalu, C. Bellecci, and M. Colacino

Abstract. We study the relative importance of sea-land and mountain-valley thermal contrasts in determining the development of thermally forced mesoscale circulations (TFMCs) over a mountainous peninsula. We first analyse the energetics of the problem, and using this theory, we interprete the numerical simulations over Calabria, a mountainous peninsula in southern Italy. The CSU 3-D nonlinear numerical model is utilised to simulate the dynamics and the thermodynamics of the atmospheric fields over Calabria. Results show the importance of orography in determining the pattern of the flow and the local climate in a region as complex as Calabria. Analysis of the results shows that the energetics due to the sea-land interactions are more efficient when the peninsula is flat. The importance of the energy due to the sea-land decreases as the mountain height of the peninsula increases. The energy stored over the mountain gains in importance, untill it is released by the readjustment of the warm mountain air as it prevails over the energy released by the inland penetration of the sea breeze front. For instance, our results show that over a peninsula 100 km wide the energy over the mountain and the energy in the sea-land contrast are of the same order when the height of the mountain is about 700 m, for a 1500 m convective boundary layer (CBL) depth. Over the Calabrian peninsula, the energy released by the hot air in the CBL of the mountain prevails over the energy released by the inland penetration of the sea air. Calabria is about 1500 m high and about 50 km wide, and the CBL is of the order of 1500 m. The energy over the mountain is about four time larger than the energy contained in the sea-land contrast. Furthermore, the energetics increase with the patch width of the peninsula, and when its half width is much less than the Rossby radius, the MAPE of the sea breeze is negligible. When its half width is much larger than the Rossby radius, the breezes from the two opposing coastlines do not interact. Over Calabria peninsula, numerical simulations show that the flow is highly ageostrophic, and that the flow intensity increases from sunrise to reach its maximum in the afternoon but before sunset, which suggests that, in the late part of the day, the conversion of potential energy into kinetic energy is balanced by the dissipation.

Key words: Meteorology and atmospheric dynamics (climatology; mesoscale meteorology)