The Dynamics of Observed Lee Waves over the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in Iceland

Ioana Colfescu, Joseph B. Klemp, Massimo A. Bollasina, Stephen D. Mobbs, Ralph R. Burton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


On 20 October 2016, aircraft observations documented a significant train of lee waves above and downstream of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula on the west coast of Iceland. Simulations of this event with the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model provide an excellent representation of the observed structure of these mountain waves. The orographic features producing these waves are characterized by the isolated Snæfellsjökull volcano near the tip of the peninsula and a fairly uniform ridge along its spine. Sensitivity simulations with the WRF Model document that the observed wave train consists of a superposition of the waves produced individually by these two dominant orographic features. This behavior is consistent with idealized simulations of a flow over an isolated 3-D mountain and over a 2-D ridge, which reproduce the essential behavior of the observed waves and those captured in the WRF simulations. Linear analytic analysis confirms the importance of a strong inversion at the top on the boundary layer in promoting significant wave activity extending far downstream on the terrain. However, analysis of the forced and resonant modes for a two layer atmosphere with a capping inversion suggest that this wave train may not be produced by resonant modes whose energy is trapped beneath the inversion. Rather, these appear to be vertically propagating modes with very small vertical group velocity that can persist far downstream of the mountain. These vertically propagating waves potentially provide a mechanism for producing near-resonant waves further aloft due to interactions with a stable layer in the mid-troposphere.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2021


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