Kelvin Waves and Internal Bores in the Marine Boundary Layer Inversion and Their Relationship to Coastally Trapped Wind Reversals

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Ralph, F. M.
Neiman, P. J.
Wilczak, J. M.
Persson, P.O.G.
Bane, J. M.
Cancillo, M. L.
Nuss, W.
Date of Issue
February 2000
American Meteorological Society
Detailed observations of a coastally trapped disturbance, or wind reversal, on 10–11 June 1994 along the California coast provide comprehensive documentation of its structure, based on aircraft, wind profiler, radio acoustic sounding system, and buoy measurements. Unlike the expectations from earlier studies based on limited data, which concluded that the deepening of the marine boundary layer (MBL) was a key factor, the 1994 data show that the perturbation was better characterized as an upward thickening of the inversion capping the MBL. As the event propagated over a site, the reversal in the alongshore wind direction occurred first within the inversion and then 3–4 h later at the surface. A node in the vertical structure (defined here as the altitude of zero vertical displacement) is found just above the inversion base, with up to 200-m upward displacements of isentropic surfaces above the node, and 70-m downward displacements below. Although this is a single event, it is shown that the vertical structure observed is representative of most other coastally trapped wind reversals. This is determined by comparing a composite of the 10–11 June 1994 event, based on measurements at seven buoys, with surface pressure perturbations calculated from aircraft data. These results are compared to the composite of many events. In each case a weak pressure trough occurred between 2.4 and 4.0 h ahead of the surface wind reversal, and the pressure rose by 0.32–0.48 mb between the trough and the wind reversal. The pressure rise results from the cooling caused by the inversion’s upward expansion. The propagation and structure of the event are shown to be best characterized as a mixed Kelvin wave–bore propagating within the inversion above the MBL, with the MBL acting as a quasi-rigid lower boundary. If the MBL is instead assumed to respond in unison with the inversion, then the theoretically predicted intrinsic phase speeds significantly exceed the observed intrinsic phase speed. The hybrid nature of the event is indicated by two primary characteristics: 1) the disturbance had a much shallower slope than expected for an internal bore, while at the same time the upward perturbation within the inversion was quasi-permanent rather than sinusoidal, which more closely resembles a bore; and 2) the predicted phase speeds for the ‘‘solitary’’ form of nonlinear Kelvin wave and for an internal bore are both close to the observed intrinsic phase speed.
Series/Report No
Other Units
Naval Postgraduate School
NPS Report Number
18 p.
Ralph, F. M., et al. "Kelvin waves and internal bores in the marine boundary layer inversion and their relationship to coastally trapped wind reversals." Monthly weather review 128.2 (2000): 283-300.
Distribution Statement
This publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.