Interactions between the night time valley-wind system and a developing cold-air pool
The Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) numerical model is used to characterize the influence of a thermally-driven down-valley flow on a developing cold-air pool in an idealized alpine valley decoupled from the atmosphere above. Results for a three-dimensional (3D) valley, which allows for the formation of a down-valley flow, and for a two-dimensional (2D) valley, where the formation of a down-valley flow is inhibited, are analyzed and compared. A key result is that advection leads to a net cooling in the 2D valley and to a warming in the 3D valley, once the down-valley flow is fully developed. This difference stems from the suppression of the slope-flow induced upward motions over the valley centre in the 3D valley. As a result, the downslope flows develop a cross-valley circulation within the cold-air pool, the growth of the cold-air pool is reduced and the valley atmosphere is generally warmer than in the 2D valley. A quasi-steady state is reached for which the divergence of the down-valley flow along the valley is balanced by the convergence of the downslope flows at the top of the cold-air pool, with no net contribution of subsiding motions far from the slope layer. More precisely, the inflow of air at the top of the cold-air pool is found to be driven by an interplay between the return flow from the plain region and subsidence over the plateaux. Finally, the mechanisms that control the structure of the cold-air pool and its evolution are found to be independent of the valley length as soon as the quasi-steady state is reached and the down-valley flow is fully developed.