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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 09 Oct 2019

Submitted as: research article | 09 Oct 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences (NHESS).

Synoptic and Mesoscale atmospheric features associated with an extreme Snowstorm over the Central Andes in August 2013

Marcelo Zamuriano1, Paul Froidevaux1,2, Isabel Moreno3, Mathias Vuille4, and Stefan Brönnimann1 Marcelo Zamuriano et al.
  • 1Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research and Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Switzerland
  • 2Meteotest AG, Bern, Switzerland
  • 3UMSA/LFA, La Paz, Bolivia
  • 4Dept. of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, Univ. at Albany, USA

Abstract. We study the synoptic and mesoscale characteristics of a snowfall event over the Bolivian Altiplano in August 2013 that caused severe damage to people, infrastructure and livestock. This event was associated with a cold front episode following the eastern slope of the Andes-Amazon interface and a cut-off low pressure system (COL) over the Pacific Ocean. Large scale analyses suggest a two-stage mechanism: The first phase consisted of a strong cold surge to the east of the Andes inducing low level blocking of southward moisture transport over the SW Amazon basin due to post-frontal high-pressure up to 500 hPa synchronized to a Rossby wave train. The second stage was initiated by the displacement of 500 hPa anticyclone over the Andes due to a Rossby wave passage and a subsequent increase in north-easterly moisture transport, while another cold front along the eastern Andes provided additional lifting. We analyse an analog event (July 2010) to confirm the influence of these large-scale features on snow formation.

We conduct a mesoscale analysis using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF-ARW) model. For this purpose, we perform a series of high-resolution numerical experiments that include sensitivity studies where we apply orographic and lake Titicaca temperature modifications. We compare our findings to MODIS snow cover estimates and in-situ measurements. The control simulation is able to capture the snow cover spatial distribution and sheds light over several aspects of the snowfall dynamics. In our WRF simulations, daytime snowfall mainly occurs around complex orography whereas nocturnal snowfall is concentrated over the plateau due to a combination of nocturnal winds and complex orography inside the plateau. The sensitivity experiments indicate the importance of the lake and mountain for thermal wind circulation affecting the spatial distribution of snowfall by shifting the position of the convergence zones. The influence of the lake's thermal effect is not evident around the regions surrounding the lake.

Marcelo Zamuriano et al.
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Marcelo Zamuriano et al.
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