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Location: Mars Hill, NC, United States

A small, highly personalized real estate firm specializing in mountain homes and land in greater Asheville.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Living Around Asheville: "Orographic Lift"

Part 2 of a Series on Mountain Weather


A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about how one's elevation in the mountains can impact temperature and local weather. This is called the lapse rate. It simply states that temperatures will decline by 3.56 degrees F for every 1,000 feet gain in elevation.

Today we turn our attention to a related factor, known technically as "orographic lift". Wikipedia offers this explanation:
Orographic lift occurs when an air mass is forced from a low elevation to a higher elevation as it moves over rising terrain. As the air mass gains altitude it expands and cools adiabatically. This cooler air cannot hold the moisture as well as warm air can, which effectively raises the relative humidity to 100%, creating clouds and frequent precipitation.
So, when air masses are swept into the mountains here, they can easily rise from a little more than 1,000 feet above sea level to 5,000 or 6,000 feet in a matter of mere miles. This is a significant lowering of temperature, by as much as much as 14.2 degrees F, for those who live at 5,000 feet.

It seems to us that orographic effects around Asheville are highly localized. They are mostly seen in terms of afternoon summer showers, and at times, winter snows. Certain regions however can see as much as 80 inches of rain/year, and qualify as temperate rain forest. The payback is in places like Gorges State Park, with its tumbling waterfalls, and lush vegetation.

More mountain weather phenomenon to follow, stay tuned.

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