The effects of mesoscale surface heterogeneity on the fair-weather convective atmospheric boundary layer

Song Lak Kang, Kenneth J. Davis

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31 Scopus citations


Large-eddy simulation (LES) is used to examine the impact of heterogeneity in the surface energy balance on the mesoscale and microscale structure of the convective atmospheric boundary layer (ABL). A long (16 or 32 km) and narrow (5 km) domain of the convective ABL is forced with an imposed surface heat flux consisting of a constant background flux of 0.20 K m s-1 (250 W m-2) added to a sinusoidal perturbation of 16 or 32 km and whose amplitude varies from 0.02 to 0.20 K m s 1 (25-250 W m-2). The output is analyzed using a spatial filter, spectral analyses, and a wave-cutoff filter to show how the mesoscale and microscale components of the ABL respond to surface heterogeneity. The ABL response is divided by amplitude of heterogeneity into oscillatory and nonoscillatory mesoscale flows, with amplitudes of 0.08 K m s-1 (100 W m-2) and greater being oscillatory. Although mean ABL structure is disturbed relative to the homogeneous case for all heterogeneous cases, the microscale structure of the ABL in the quasi-steady flows retains characteristics of mixed-layer similarity. The vertical sensible heat flux is dominated in all cases by the microscale flux, with an interscale term becoming significant for high-amplitude cases and the mesoscale flux remaining small in all cases. Prior observations of ABLs over heterogeneous surfaces are consistent with the lower-amplitude cases. These results contradict past studies that suggest that heterogeneous surfaces lead to large mesoscale fluxes. The interscale flux and oscillatory microscale structures raise questions about the ability of mesoscale models to properly simulate the ABL in high-amplitude heterogeneity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3197-3213
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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