AOS Undergraduate Nicolas Gordillo PublishedJanuary 7, 2020
UW-Madison undergraduate Nicolas Gordillo was recently published in an edition of Earth, Wind, Sea, and Sky which features abstracts of papers from the 2019 Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science (SOARS) Protégés. His paper, “Using WRF to Determine the Effects of Natural Sensitivities on Orographic Precipitation”, utilizes the Weather, Research, and Forecasting (WRF) model to investigate how snow amount varies with temperature and wind speed on the windward (upwind) and leeward (downwind) sides of a mountain.
To conduct this study, a series of temperature and wind profile variations were run to test the model’s spatial and temporal sensitivity with respect to the distribution of orographic snow. The team discovered that the model was very sensitive to small changes in temperature and wind speed, with the initial profile producing the most snow. Increases and decreases of only 3*C in temperature resulted in less snow on both sides of the mountain, whereas wind speed increases resulted in more snow accumulation on the windward side.
Orographic precipitation refers to a type of precipitation that is commonly found near mountains or other areas with a sharp increase in altitude. As wind blows up and over a mountain, the air cools to the point where water begins to condense and form clouds. These clouds result in most of the moisture falling as precipitation along the windward side of the mountain. Any precipitation that falls on the leeward side of the mountain is called spillover.
Gordillo is a senior within the AOS department majoring in atmospheric and oceanic sciences and computer science. His mentors for the research project were Anders Jensen (NCAR), Lulin Xue (NCAR), Holger Vömel (NCAR), Terra Ladwig (NOAA), Ebone Smith, and Amin Taziny.