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Observations and predictability of gap winds in the Salmon River Canyon of Central Idaho, USA

Author(s): Natalie S. Wagenbrenner, Jason M. Forthofer, Chris Gibson, Abby Indreland, Brian K. Lamb, Bret W. Butler
Year Published: 2018

This work investigates gap winds in a steep, deep river canyon prone to wildland fire. The driving mechanisms and the potential for forecasting the gap winds are investigated. The onset and strength of the gap winds are found to be correlated to the formation of an along-gap pressure gradient linked to periodic development of a thermal trough in the Pacific Northwest, USA. Numerical simulations are performed using a reanalysis dataset to investigate the ability of numerical weather prediction (NWP) to simulate the observed gap wind events, including the timing and flow characteristics within the canyon. The effects of model horizontal grid spacing and terrain representation are considered. The reanalysis simulations suggest that horizontal grid spacings used in operational NWP could be sufficient for simulating the gap flow events given the regional-scale depression in which the Salmon River Canyon is situated. The strength of the events, however, is under-predicted due, at least in part, to terrain smoothing in the model. Routine NWP, however, is found to have mixed results in terms of forecasting the gap wind events, primarily due to problems in simulating the regional sea level pressure system correctly.

Citation: Wagenbrenner, Natalie S.; Forthofer, Jason M.; Gibson, Chris; Indreland, Abby; Lamb, Brian K.; Butler, Bret W. 2018. Observations and predictability of gap winds in the Salmon River Canyon of Central Idaho, USA. Atmosphere 9(2):45.
Topic(s): Fire Behavior, Simulation Modeling, Weather
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 18337
FRAMES RCS number: 56701
Record updated: Nov 7, 2018