Articles | Volume 13, issue 6
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 3409–3422, 2013

Special issue: VAMOS Ocean-Cloud-Atmosphere-Land Study (VOCALS) (ACP/OS inter-journal...

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 3409–3422, 2013

Research article 25 Mar 2013

Research article | 25 Mar 2013

Meteorological observations on the northern Chilean coast during VOCALS-REx

J. A. Rutllant1,2, R. C. Muñoz1, and R. D. Garreaud1,3 J. A. Rutllant et al.
  • 1Department of Geophysics, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile
  • 2Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Zonas Áridas (CEAZA), La Serena, Chile
  • 3Center for Climate and Resilience Research (CR)2, Santiago, Chile

Abstract. Surface coastal observations from two automatic weather stations at Paposo (~25° S) and radiosonde observations at Paposo and Iquique (~20° S) were carried out during VOCALS-REx (VAMOS Ocean-Cloud-Atmosphere-Land Study Regional Experiment). Within the coastal marine boundary layer (MBL), sea–land breezes are superimposed on the prevailing southerlies, resulting in light northeasterly winds from midnight to early morning and strong southwesterlies in the afternoon. The prevailing northerlies above the MBL and below the top of the Andes are modulated by the onshore-offshore (zonal) flow forced by the diurnal cycle of surface heating/cooling along the western slope of the Andes. The daytime phase of this diurnal cycle is consistent with an enhanced afternoon coastal subsidence manifested in afternoon warming near the top of the subsidence inversion (~1.8 K at 800 hPa), lowering (~130 m) of its base (top of the MBL), and clearing of coastal Sc (stratocumulus) clouds. Results from a numerical simulation of the atmospheric circulation in a mean zonal cross section over the study area capture the afternoon zonal wind divergence and resulting subsidence of about 2 cm s−1 along a narrow (~10 km) coastal strip maximizing at around 800 hPa. Day-to-day variability in the MBL depth during VOCALS-REx shows sub-synoptic oscillations, aside from two major disruptions in connection with a deep trough and a cutoff low, as described elsewhere. These oscillations are phase-locked to those in sea-level pressure and afternoon alongshore southerlies, as found in connection with coastal lows farther south.

From 24-h forward trajectories issued from significant points at the coast and inland at the extremes of the diurnal cycle, it can be concluded that the strong mean daytime Andean pumping prevents any possibility of continental sulfur sources from reaching the free troposphere above the Sc cloud deck in at least a one-day timescale, under mean conditions. Conversely, coastal sources could contribute with sulfur aerosols preferentially in the morning, provided that the weak daytime inland flow becomes partially blocked by the coastal terrain.

Final-revised paper