Articles | Volume 14, issue 18
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 14, 9771–9786, 2014
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 14, 9771–9786, 2014

Research article 17 Sep 2014

Research article | 17 Sep 2014

Analysis of the diurnal development of a lake-valley circulation in the Alps based on airborne and surface measurements

L. Laiti1,2, D. Zardi1,2, M. de Franceschi1,2,3, G. Rampanelli1,2,4, and L. Giovannini1,2 L. Laiti et al.
  • 1Atmospheric Physics Group – Department of Civil, Environmental and Mechanical Engineering – University of Trento, Trento, Italy
  • 2CINFAI – National Consortium of Universities for Atmospheric and Hydrospheric Physics, Rome, Italy
  • 3Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone, Bressanone, Italy
  • 4Depuration Agency – Autonomous Province of Trento, Trento, Italy

Abstract. This study investigates the thermal structures of the atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) and the near-surface wind field associated with a lake-valley circulation in the south-eastern Italian Alps – the so-called Ora del Garda. Two flights of an equipped motorglider allowed for the exploration of the diurnal evolution of this circulation, from the onset, on Lake Garda's shoreline, throughout its development along the Sarca Valley and Lakes Valley (Valle dei Laghi), to the outflow into the Adige Valley. At the same time, surface observations, both from a targeted field campaign and from routinely operated weather stations, supported the analysis of the development of the Ora del Garda at the valley floor.

In particular, in the valleys typical ABL vertical structures, characterized by rather shallow convective mixed layers (~ 500 m) and (deeper) weakly stable layers above, up to the lateral crest height, are identified in the late morning. In contrast, close to the lake the ABL is stably stratified down to very low heights, as a consequence of the intense advection of colder air associated with the Ora del Garda flow (up to 6 m s–1). The combined analysis of surface and airborne observations (remapped over 3-D high-resolution grids) suggests that the lake-breeze front propagating up-valley from the shoreline in the late morning penetrates slightly later at the eastern end of the valley inlet (delay: ~ 1 h), probably due to the asymmetric radiative forcing caused by the N–S valley orientation. On the other hand, in the early afternoon the Ora del Garda overflows through an elevated gap, producing an anomalous, strong cross-valley wind (5 m s–1) at the Adige Valley floor north of Trento, which overwhelms the local up-valley wind. This feature is associated with a strong deepening of the local mixed layer (from 400 to 1300 m). The potential temperature 3-D field suggests that the intense turbulent mixing may be attributed to the development of a downslope wind across the gap, followed by a hydraulic jump downstream.

Final-revised paper