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3.3 Complex Terrain Locations

For the purposes of this guidance, the term “complex terrain” is intended to mean any site where terrain effects on meteorological measurements may be significant. Terrain effects include:

  • aerodynamic wakes, 

  • density-driven slope flows, 

  • channeling, 

  • flow accelerations over the crest of terrain features, 

  • other, etc.; 

These flows primarily affect wind speed and wind direction measurements, however, temperature and humidity measurements may also be affected. The definition of significance depends on the application; for regulatory dispersion modeling applications, significance is determined by comparing stack-top height and/or an estimated plume height to terrain height - terrain which is below stack-top is classified as simple terrain (see Section 3.2), terrain between stack-top height and plume height is classified as intermediate terrain, and terrain which is above plume height is classified as complex terrain [1].

Vertical gradients and/or discontinuities in the vertical profiles of meteorological variables are often significant in complex terrain. Consequently, measurements of the meteorological variables affecting transport and dispersion of a plume (wind direction, wind speed, and ) should be made at multiple levels in order to ensure that data used for modeling are representative of conditions at plume level. 

The ideal arrangement in complex terrain involves siting a tall tower between the source and the terrain feature of concern. The tower should be tall enough to provide measurements at plume level. Other terrain in the area should not significantly affect plume transport in a different manner than that measured by the tower. Since there are not many situations where this ideal can be achieved, a siting decision in complex terrain will almost always be a compromise. 

Monitoring options in complex terrain range from a single tall tower to multiple tall towers supplemented by data from one or more remote sensing platforms. Other components of the siting decision include determining tower locations, deciding whether or not a tower should be sited on a nearby terrain feature, and determining levels (heights) for monitoring. Careful planning is essential in any siting decision. Since each complex terrain situation has unique features to consider, no specific recommendations can be given to cover all cases. However, the siting process should be essentially the same in all complex terrain situations. Recommended steps in the siting process are as follows:

  • Define the variables that are needed for a particular application.

  • Develop as much information as possible to define what terrain influences are likely to be important. This should include examination of topographic maps of the area with terrain above physical stack height outlined. Preliminary estimates of plume rise should be made to determine a range of expected plume heights. If any site specific meteorological data are available, they should be analyzed to see what can be learned about the specific terrain effects on air flow patterns. An evaluation by a meteorologist based on a site visit would also be desirable.

  • Examine alternative measurement locations and techniques for required variables. Advantages and disadvantages of each technique/location should be considered, utilizingas a starting point the discussions presented above and elsewhere in this document.

  • Optimize network design by balancing advantages and disadvantages.

It is particularly important in complex terrain to consider the end use of each variable separately. Guidance and concerns specific to the measurement of wind speed, wind direction, and temperature difference in complex terrain are discussed in the following sections.

 3.1 Representativeness 
     3.1.1 Objectives for Siting 
     3.1.2 Factors to Consider  
 3.2 Simple Terrain Locations 
     3.2.1 Speed and Wind Direction  
     3.2.2 Temperature, Temperature Difference, and Humidity
     3.2.3 Precipitation  
     3.2.4 Pressure 
      3.2.5 Radiation 
 3.3 Complex Terrain Locations  
     3.3.1 Wind Speed  
     3.3.2 Wind Direction 
     3.3.3 Temperature Difference 
  3.4 Coastal Locations
 3.5 Urban Locations 
 3.6 Recommendations

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