Mountain Meteorology

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  • Dr. Maximiliano Viale (IANIGLA) – Course manager
  • Dr. Curtis James (Department of Applied Aviation Sciences/Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, AZ, USA)
  • Dr. Federico Otero (IANIGLA)

Format and Language
The course is planned to be in person and the lectures will be given in English.

Total hours and timeline:
45 hours in total: 25 Theoretical classes, 20 hours in lab. Field trip optional

Horario de cursado (sujeto a modificaciones): Lunes a viernes de 9 a 13h y de 14 a 18h

Objectives of the course: Mountain Meteorology is intended for students and professionals in environmental sciences who carry out their research in mountainous areas, without the need of prior knowledge in atmospheric sciences, such as biologists, paleo-climatologists, geographers, hydrologists, glaciologists, among others. The course aims to sharpen the appreciation and awareness of the typical and recurrent mountain weather phenomena that determine the mountain climate, by introducing basic physical principles of the atmosphere applied to mountainous areas. It is expected that the contents of the course will be useful to both students and professionals in their field work and their data analysis/interpretation from mountainous areas. The course includes the development of one-week project for analysing climatic data that shows some mountain weather/climate phenomena, which will also provide practice and guidance in managing data and exploring climate phenomena.

Course program
Part 1. An Introduction to the Atmosphere

Unit 1: Factors that determine climate, general circulation and vertical structure of the Atmosphere (Viale)

Factors that determine climate applied to the Andes cordillera in South America. Atmospheric scale of motion and the typical scales in the mountain. Wind, pressure and general circulation of the atmosphere. Atmospheric composition and vertical variation of the temperature, pressure, humidity and wind with height. Atmospheric stability and the boundary layer. The Andes cordillera as a determining factor in South American climate. Contrasting climate at both sides of the Andes.

Unit 2: Air masses and fronts (Otero), Cloud and Precipitation (Viale)

Air masses and their boundaries (fronts). The development of fronts and their association with cyclogenesis and the polar front. The role of the Andes cordillera by perturbating the equatorward evolution of fronts and on other regional circulations. Clouds, their composition and examples in the mountains. Precipitation, different types according to its formation and state. Water phase changes in the atmosphere: the Clausius-Clapeyron equation. Droplet size distribution in precipitating and non-precipitating clouds. Precipitation growth processes: cold and warm rain.

Part 2. Mountain Winds

Unit 3: Terrain-forced flows (F.Otero)

Factors that affect terrain-forced flows: stability, strength of winds, and topographic features. Flow around mountain: unblocked and blocked Flow, barrier jets, gap winds, flow splitting and convergence zones.
Flow over mountain: mountain waves and different features of the Zonda wind along the Andes. The Raco, Puelche and Terral winds in the Chilean side. Application to fire weather and air contamination.

Unit 4: Diurnal mountain winds (C.James)

The four main diurnal wind systems: slopes winds, along- and cross-valley winds, mountain-plain winds. The diurnal cycle of mountain wind systems. Disturbances of the daily cycle by larger scale flows. Examples in the Andes and mountain ranges in North America.

Part 3. Orographic Precipitation

Unit 5: Orographic effects on midlatitudes frontal precipitation systems (Viale)

Fundamental factors in orographic precipitation: airflow thermodynamic and dynamic, microphysics of clouds and terrain shapes. Processes involved: water vapor flux, orographic ascent and condensation. The role of the atmospheric stability (blocked and unblocked flow) and dimensions of the topography. Diabatic heating and microphysics of clouds. Examples in the Andes and mountain ranges in North America. Application to the distribution of glaciers and vegetation in the extratropical Andes.

Units 6: Orographic effects on convective precipitation systems (James)

The strong relationship between the convective precipitation and the orography. Triggering of convective precipitation by diurnal thermal mountain winds and terrain-forced winds realising potential instability.
Convective event distribution (a climatic perspective). Capping and triggering by orographic effects. Examples in the Andes and Sierras de Cordoba (RELAMPAGO-project) in South America and mountain ranges in North America. Application to the distribution of glaciers and vegetation in the subtropical/tropical Andes.

Course components [theory, labs, field work]
The course includes theoretical classes, exercises in lab and an optional field trip. The lab time includes exercise of each topic and one-week project for analysing data that show/explain some specific mountain weather phenomenon. The data can be provided by the professors or be own data from students which they are currently working for his/her PhD/work project. The field trip will be at the end of the course, going across the Valle de Uco to see the evolution of the mountain-plain wind systems forming clouds in a summer day, coming back by the Las Carreras road and Potrerillos villages to see further diurnal mountain winds.

Evaluation method 
The evaluation will be through a writing final test plus an oral presentation by groups their one-week Project made in the course.

Costo: $18000 (pesos argentinos) / Arancel para alumnos/as extranjeros: USS 120 

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