A laboratory simulation of mesoscale flow interaction with the Alps

E. Ferrero, A. Longhetto, L. Briatore, G. Chabert d'Hieres, H. Didelle, C. Giraud, P. Gleizon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


A series of laboratory experiments, aimed at the simulation of some aspects of Alpine lee cyclogenesis has been carried out in the rotating tank of the Coriolis Laboratory of LEGI-IMG in Grenoble. Dynamic and thermodynamic processes, typical of baroclinic development triggered by the orography, were simulated. The background flow simulating the basic state of the atmosphere consisted of a stream of intermediate density fluid introduced at the interface between two fluid layers. The structure of the intermediate current was established by mixing fluid obtained from the upper layer of fresh water with fluid removed from the heavier salty layer below. The dynamical similarity parameters are the Rossby ( Ro), Burger ( Bu) and Ekman ( Ek) numbers, although this last, owing to its small values, need not be matched between model and prototype, since viscous effects are not important for small time scales. The flow in both the prototype and laboratory simulation is characterized by hydrostatics; this requires ( Ro2δ2/ Bu)≪1 (where δ= H/ L is the aspect ratio of the obstacle) which is clearly satisfied, in the atmosphere and oceans, and for the laboratory experiment. A range of experiments for various Rossby and Burger numbers were conducted which delimited the region of parameter space for which background flows akin to that found to the northwest of the Alps prior to baroclinic cyclogenesis events, were observed. One such experiment was carried out by placing a model of the Alps at the appropriate place in the flow field. The subsequent motion in the laboratory was observed and dye tracer motions were used to obtain the approximate particle trajectories. The density field was also analyzed to provide the geopotential field of the simulated atmosphere. Using standard transformations from the similarity analysis, the laboratory observations were related to the prototype atmosphere. The flow and the geopotential fields gave results compatible with the particular atmospheric event presented.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-25
JournalDynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2002


  • lee cyclogenesis
  • physical simulation
  • baroclinic instability


Dive into the research topics of 'A laboratory simulation of mesoscale flow interaction with the Alps'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this