Strong Down-Valley Low-Level Jets over the Atacama Desert: Observational Characterization

Muñoz, Ricardo C.; Falvey, Mark J.; Araya, Marcelo; Jacques-Coper, Martín (2013). Strong Down-Valley Low-Level Jets over the Atacama Desert: Observational Characterization. Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, 52(12), pp. 2735-2752. American Meteorological Society 10.1175/JAMC-D-13-063.1

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The near-surface wind and temperature regime at three points in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile is described using two-year multi-level measurements from 80-m towers located in an altitude range between 2100 and 2700 m ASL. The data reveal the frequent development of strong nocturnal drainage flows at all sites. Down-valley nose-shaped wind speed profiles are observed with maximum values occurring at heights between 20 m and 60 m AGL. The flow intensity shows considerable inter-daily variability and a seasonal modulation of maximum speeds, which in the cold season can attain hourly average values larger than 20 m s−1. Turbulent mixing appears significant over the full tower layer, affecting the curvature of the nighttime temperature profile and possibly explaining the observed increase of surface temperatures in the down-valley direction. Nocturnal valley winds and temperatures are weakly controlled by upper-air conditions observed at the nearest aerological station. Estimates of terms in the momentum budget for the development and the quasi-stationary phases of the down-valley flows suggest that the pressure gradient force due to the near-surface cooling along the sloping valley axes plays an important role in these drainage flows. A scale for the jet nose height of equilibrium turbulent down-slope jets is proposed, based on surface friction velocity and surface inversion intensity. At one of the sites this scale explains about 70% of the case-to-case observed variance of jet nose heights. Further modeling and observational work is needed, however, in order to better define the dynamics, extent and turbulence structure of this flow system, which has significant wind-energy, climatic and environmental implications.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Physical Geography > Unit Climatology
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography

UniBE Contributor:

Jacques, Martin


900 History > 910 Geography & travel




American Meteorological Society




Monika Wälti-Stampfli

Date Deposited:

17 Jan 2014 10:30

Last Modified:

26 Jun 2016 01:46

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Complex terrain, South America, Downslope winds, Drainage flow, Boundary layer, Automatic weather stations




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