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Orographic Precipitation in the Tropics: Experiments in Dominica

R. B. Smith, P. Schafer, D. J. Kirshbaum, E. Regina
2009 Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences  
The "natural laboratory" of mountainous Dominica (158N) in the trade wind belt is used to study the physics of tropical orographic precipitation in its purest form, unforced by weather disturbances or by the diurnal cycle of solar heating. A cross-island line of rain gauges and 5-min radar scans from Guadeloupe reveal a large annual precipitation at high elevation (7 m yr 21 ) and a large orographic enhancement factor (2 to 8) caused primarily by repetitive convective triggering over the
more » ... ing over the windward slope. The triggering is caused by terrainforced lifting of the conditionally unstable trade wind cloud layer. Ambient humidity fluctuations associated with open-ocean convection may play a key role. The convection transports moisture upward and causes frequent brief showers on the hilltops. The drying ratio of the full air column from precipitation is less than 1% whereas the surface air dries by about 17% from the east coast to the mountain top. On the lee side, a plunging trade wind inversion and reduced instability destroys convective clouds and creates an oceanic rain shadow.
doi:10.1175/2008jas2920.1 fatcat:tvc542klt5fotdssulpymvt5xy