• Coastal winds;
  • Mountain flows;
  • Rotation


A general linearized ‘shallow-layer’ perturbation model, where the approximately neutral lower layer of thickness h0 is situated below a stable upper layer (i.e. an inversion with temperature change ΔT), is developed for steady, mesoscale atmospheric flows over low-lying topography whose height is less than h0. With the Coriolis parameter f, sharp changes in surface conditions (surface roughness, terrain elevation, heat flux) are modelled as a distributed body force through the lower layer. The Froude number of this layer is small. Typical cases of mesoscale discontinuities are examined. The results are compared with those of a continuously stratified model and observations, and with numerical mesoscale model results for a meteorological case-study over the Dover Straits region of the English Channel. The main results are:

(i) If the wind direction is parallel to the edge-line separating the change in surface roughness, there are marked increases and decreases in these coastal winds whose maxima can occur over the sea within a distance of order h0(∼1 km) of a coast. The strength of these wind ‘jets’, which do not occur in the absence of Coriolis force, decrease away from the edge-line gradually over transverse length-scales of the order of the Rossby deformation radius equation image. Changes to surface roughness lead to an increase in the wind speed perturbation in the downwind direction until limited by non-linear effects. When the wind is at an angle to a roughness change or coast, the maxima occur at the coastline.

(ii) Where there are sharp changes in the orientation of contours of constant roughness length (e.g. at capes or bays on the coastline or wakes of high-drag areas), ‘detached’ jets are formed in the downwind direction.

(iii) Changes in surface elevation at a coast produce effects different from those of roughness; a positive wind jet forms parallel to the coast in the direction of the wind when the coast is on the right (looking downwind) and a negative jet when the coast is on the left. These jets do not increase in strength along the flow and do not persist downwind.

(iv) Coriolis effects also determine how the inversion height varies near coastlines and surface roughness changes; for example, increasing/decreasing inland over a distance LR when stable airflow approaches from the sea and the coast is on the right/left of an observer looking downwind (opposite in the southern hemisphere). This mechanism is consistent with observed increasing/decreasing cloudiness inland from a coast.

(v) Other effects occur where the surface elevation changes gradually over a distance of order LR (e.g. a wide, shallow valley); frictional effects are comparable with buoyancy and Coriolis forces, and flows perpendicular to the elevation change are deflected to the left (in the northern hemisphere), as observed in the Rhine valley.

(vi) The shallow-layer model simulates the major features of the low-level flow field computed using the numerical mesoscale model with a horizontal resolution of 2 km, i.e. of order h0. Broad features were captured using a coarser resolution of 12 km.

(vii) The analysis provides a method of estimating errors associated with finite grid size in numerical mesoscale models. Copyright © 2004 Royal Meteorological Society