Three-Dimensional Effects in High-Drag-State Flows over Long Ridges Academic Article uri icon


  • Numerical simulations of nonrotating flow with uniform basic wind and stability past long three-dimensional (3D) ridges are compared to the corresponding two-dimensional (2D) limit to reveal the importance of 3D effects. For mountain heights smaller than the threshold for breaking waves, the low-level flow over the interior of the ridge is well described by 2D theory when the horizontal aspect ratio β is roughly 10 or greater. By contrast, in flows with wave breaking significant discrepancies between 2D and 3D results remain apparent even for β = 12. It is found that the onset of wave breaking and the transition to the high-drag state is accompanied in 3D by an abrupt increase in deflection of the low-level flow around the ridge. The increased flow deflection is produced at least in part by upstream-propagating columnar disturbances forced by the transition to the high-drag state. The deflection of the incident flow reduces the amplitude of the mountain wave aloft relative to 2D and acts as a negative feedback on the surface form drag. As a result, the nonlinear enhancement of the surface drag associated with wave breaking for a ridge with β = 7.5 is found to be roughly half the enhancement obtained for a 2D ridge.

author list (cited authors)

  • Epifanio, C. C., & Durran, D. R.

citation count

  • 47

publication date

  • May 2001