Local and regional wind systems
The atmospheric research group in the Geography Department has a long history of research into local and regional wind systems extending over the past four decades. The main aim of this research is to improve knowledge of the origin and nature of local and regional wind systems that develop as a result of the influence of the Earth’s surface on the overlying atmosphere.
In particular, the research team has focused on developing a clearer understanding of both the role of the different processes involved, and the way they interact to produce unusually complex local wind regimes.
Our research strategy has been to build on existing knowledge of the individual components of local wind regimes, such as slope winds, mountain-valley winds and sea-land breezes, by focusing on the combined contributions of dynamic and thermal forcing associated with the underlying terrain and the influence of overlying synoptic weather systems.
Internationally, few research programmes have taken such a comprehensive approach, involving investigation of surface heat budgets, atmospheric boundary layer development and local winds in complex environments. We have adopted a dual approach involving field data collection complemented by application of advanced numerical models, which has allowed both improvement of knowledge of atmospheric processes in complex terrain and the enhancement of research skills within our group and the New Zealand science community.
The results of our research have allowed a unique insight into the multi-scale atmospheric processes and phenomena that develop in regions of complex terrain. This research is also fundamental to the more applied work in atmospheric science conducted by our group, including identifying sites for new vineyard development, evaluating areas of complex terrain for wind energy potential, and air pollution dispersion.