Articles | Volume 22, issue 11
Ann. Geophys., 22, 3927–3936, 2004

Special issue: 10th International Workshop on Technical and Scientific Aspects...

Ann. Geophys., 22, 3927–3936, 2004

  29 Nov 2004

29 Nov 2004

Vertical velocity and turbulence aspects during Mistral events as observed by UHF wind profilers

J.-L. Caccia1, V. Guénard1, B. Benech2, B. Campistron2, and P. Drobinski3 J.-L. Caccia et al.
  • 1LSEET, CNRS/Université de Toulon, BP132, 83957 La Garde, France
  • 2CRA/LA, CNRS/Obs. Midi-Pyrénées, 65300 Campistrous, France
  • 3IPSL/SA, CNRS/Université de Paris VI, Jussieu, 75252 Paris Cedex 05, France

Abstract. The general purpose of this paper is to experimentally study mesoscale dynamical aspects of the Mistral in the coastal area located at the exit of the Rhône-valley. The Mistral is a northerly low-level flow blowing in southern France along the Rhône-valley axis, located between the French Alps and the Massif Central, towards the Mediterranean Sea. The experimental data are obtained by UHF wind profilers deployed during two major field campaigns, MAP (Mesoscale Alpine Program) in autumn 1999, and ESCOMPTE (Expérience sur Site pour COntraindre les Modèles de Pollution atmosphériques et de Transports d'Emission) in summer 2001.

Thanks to the use of the time evolution of the vertical profile of the horizontal wind vector, recent works have shown that the dynamics of the Mistral is highly dependent on the season because of the occurrence of specific synoptic patterns. In addition, during summer, thermal forcing leads to a combination of sea breeze with Mistral and weaker Mistral due to the enhanced friction while, during autumn, absence of convective turbulence leads to substantial acceleration as low-level jets are generated in the stably stratified planetary boundary layer. At the exit of the Rhône valley, the gap flow dynamics dominates, whereas at the lee of the Alps, the dynamics is driven by the relative contribution of "flow around" and "flow over" mechanisms, upstream of the Alps. This paper analyses vertical velocity and turbulence, i.e. turbulent dissipation rate, with data obtained by the same UHF wind profilers during the same Mistral events.

In autumn, the motions are found to be globally and significantly subsident, which is coherent for a dry, cold and stable flow approaching the sea, and the turbulence is found to be of pure dynamical origin (wind shears and mountain/lee wave breaking), which is coherent with non-convective situations.

In summer, due to the ground heating and to the interactions with thermal circulation, the vertical motions are less pronounced and no longer have systematic subsident charateristics. In addition, those vertical motions are found to be much less developed during the nighttimes because of the stabilization of the nocturnal planetary boundary layer due to a ground cooling. The enhanced turbulent dissipation-rate values found at lower levels during the afternoons of weak Mistral cases are consistent with the installation of the summer convective boundary layer and show that, as expected in weaker Mistral events, the convection is the preponderant factor for the turbulence generation. On the other hand, for stronger cases, such a convective boundary layer installation is perturbed by the Mistral.