Foehn warming distributions in non-linear and linear flow regimes: A focus on the Antarctic Peninsula

The structure of leeside warming during foehn events is investigated as a function of cross-barrier flow regime linearity. Two contrasting cases of westerly flow over the Antarctic Peninsula (AP) are considered – one highly non-linear, the other relatively linear. Westerly flow impinging on the AP provides one of the best natural laboratories in the world for the study of foehn, owing to its maritime setting and the Larsen C Ice Shelf (LCIS) providing an expansive, homogenous and smooth surface on its east side. Numerical simulations with the Met Office Unified Model (at 1.5 km grid size) and aircraft observations are utilised. In case A relatively weak southwesterly cross-Peninsula flow and an elevated upwind inversion dictate a highly non-linear foehn event. The consequent strongly-accelerated downslope flow leads to high amplitude warming and ice shelf melt in the immediate lee of the AP. However, this foehn warming diminishes rapidly downwind, due to upward ascent of the foehn flow via a hydraulic jump. In case C strong northwesterly winds dictate a relatively linear flow regime. There is no laterally extensive hydraulic jump and strong foehn winds are able to flow at low levels across the entire ice shelf, mechanically mixing the near-surface flow, preventing the development of a strong surface inversion and delivering large fluxes of sensible heat to the ice shelf. Consequently in case C ice melt rates are considerably greater over the LCIS as a whole than in case A. Our results imply that whilst non-linear foehn events cause intense warming in the immediate lee of mountains, linear foehn events will commonly cause more extensive leeside warming and, over an ice surface, higher melt rates. This has major implications for the AP, where recent east coast warming has led to the collapse of two ice shelves immediately north of the LCIS.


Publication status:
Authors: Elvidge, Andrew D., Renfrew, Ian A., King, John C. ORCIDORCID record for John C. King, Orr, Andrew ORCIDORCID record for Andrew Orr, Lachlan-Cope, Tom A. ORCIDORCID record for Tom A. Lachlan-Cope

On this site: Andrew Orr, John King, Thomas Lachlan-Cope
1 January, 2016
Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society / 142
Link to published article: