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Title: Local atmospheric decoupling in complex topography alters climate change impacts

Author: Daly, Christopher; Conklin, David R.; Unsworth, Michael H.;

Date: 2009

Source: International Journal of Climatology. 30(12): 1857-1864

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Cold air drainage and pooling occur in many mountain valleys, especially at night and during winter. Local climate regimes associated with frequent cold air pooling have substantial impacts on species phenology, distribution, and diversity. However, little is known about how the degree and frequency of cold air drainage and pooling will respond to a changing climate. Evidence suggests that, because cold pools are decoupled from the free atmosphere, these local climates may not respond in the same way as regional-scale climates estimated from coarse-grid general circulation models. Indeed, recent studies have demonstrated that historical changes in the frequency of synoptic conditions have produced complex spatial variations in the resulting climatic changes on the ground. In the mountainous terrain of the Oregon Cascades, we show that, at relatively exposed hill slope and ridge top locations, air temperatures are highly coupled to changes in synoptic circulation patterns at the 700-hPa level, whereas in sheltered valley bottoms, cold air pooling at night and during winter causes temperatures to be largely decoupled from, and relatively insensitive to, 700-hPa flow variations. The result is a complex temperature landscape composed of steep gradients in temporal variation, controlled largely by gradients in elevation and topographic position. Because cold air pooling and consequent atmospheric decoupling occur in many mountain valleys, especially at high latitudes, this phenomenon is likely to be an important consideration in understanding the impacts of climate change in mountainous regions

Keywords: climate change, cold air drainage, cold air pooling, temperature, complex terrain, synoptic circulation, climate impacts

Publication Notes:

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Daly, Christopher; Conklin, David R.; Unsworth, Michael H. 2009. Local atmospheric decoupling in complex topography alters climate change impacts. International Journal of Climatology. DOI: 10.1002/joc.2007: 8.


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