Influence of the wind profile on the initiation of convection in mountainous terrain



A number of days with small precipitating convective cells were investigated using weather radars during the COPS (Convective and Orographically-induced Precipitation Study) field campaign in the region of the Vosges and the Rhine Valley in Central Europe. Depending on the weather situation, two distinct mechanisms could be identified for the initiation of convection. On some days, cells were initiated over the ridge of the Vosges, whereas on other days cells were initiated in the lee of the Vosges. The initiation of convection appeared to be concentrated in a few favourable locations. Using the Froude number, it was possible to describe the two distinct mechanisms. When the Froude number was low, the flow was diverted around the Vosges and thermally driven convergence at the ridge initiated convection, whereas when the Froude number was high, the flow passed through mountain gaps and then converged on the lee side with the flow in the Rhine Valley. The convergence on the lee side was enhanced at locations where the outflows through valleys converged. Low Froude numbers were accompanied by weak winds varying with height, whereas high Froude numbers were observed during situations with stronger southwesterly winds increasing with height. Copyright © 2011 Royal Meteorological Society