Convective Boundary Layer Depth Estimation from Wind Profilers: Statistical Comparison between an Automated Algorithm and Expert Estimations

Laura Bianco Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, and NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory/Physical Sciences Division, Boulder, Colorado

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James M. Wilczak NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory/Physical Sciences Division, Boulder, Colorado

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Allen B. White Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, and NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory/Physical Sciences Division, Boulder, Colorado

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Abstract

A previous study showed success in determining the convective boundary layer depth with radar wind-profiling radars using fuzzy logic methods, and improvements to the earlier work are discussed. The improved method uses the Vaisala multipeak picking (MPP) procedure to identify the atmospheric signal in radar spectra in place of a fuzzy logic peak picking procedure that was previously used. The method then applies fuzzy logic techniques to calculate the depth of the convective boundary layer. The planetary boundary layer depth algorithm is improved with respect to the one used in the previous study in that it adds information obtained from the small-scale turbulence (vertical profiles of the spectral width of the vertical velocity), while also still using vertical profiles of the radar-derived refractive index structure parameter C2n and the variance of vertical velocity. Modifications to the fuzzy logic rules (especially to those using vertical velocity data) that improve the algorithm’s accuracy in cloudy boundary layers are incorporated. In addition, a reliability threshold value to the fuzzy logic–derived score is applied to eliminate PBL depth data values with low score values. These low score values correspond to periods when the PBL structure does not match the conceptual model of the convective PBL built into the algorithm. Also, as a final step, an optional temporal continuity test on boundary layer depth has been developed that helps improve the algorithm’s skill. A comparison with independent boundary layer depth estimations made “by eye” by meteorologists at two radar wind-profiler sites, significantly different in their characteristics, shows that the new improved method gives significantly more accurate estimates of the boundary layer depth than does the previous method, and also much better estimates than the simpler “standard” method of selecting the peak of C2n. The new method produces an absolute error of the mixing-depth estimates comparable to the vertical range resolution of the profilers.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Laura Bianco, NOAA/ESRL/PSD, R/PSD3, 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80305-3328. Email: laura.bianco@noaa.gov

This article included in the Fifth International Symposium on Tropospheric Profiling (ISTP) special collection.

Abstract

A previous study showed success in determining the convective boundary layer depth with radar wind-profiling radars using fuzzy logic methods, and improvements to the earlier work are discussed. The improved method uses the Vaisala multipeak picking (MPP) procedure to identify the atmospheric signal in radar spectra in place of a fuzzy logic peak picking procedure that was previously used. The method then applies fuzzy logic techniques to calculate the depth of the convective boundary layer. The planetary boundary layer depth algorithm is improved with respect to the one used in the previous study in that it adds information obtained from the small-scale turbulence (vertical profiles of the spectral width of the vertical velocity), while also still using vertical profiles of the radar-derived refractive index structure parameter C2n and the variance of vertical velocity. Modifications to the fuzzy logic rules (especially to those using vertical velocity data) that improve the algorithm’s accuracy in cloudy boundary layers are incorporated. In addition, a reliability threshold value to the fuzzy logic–derived score is applied to eliminate PBL depth data values with low score values. These low score values correspond to periods when the PBL structure does not match the conceptual model of the convective PBL built into the algorithm. Also, as a final step, an optional temporal continuity test on boundary layer depth has been developed that helps improve the algorithm’s skill. A comparison with independent boundary layer depth estimations made “by eye” by meteorologists at two radar wind-profiler sites, significantly different in their characteristics, shows that the new improved method gives significantly more accurate estimates of the boundary layer depth than does the previous method, and also much better estimates than the simpler “standard” method of selecting the peak of C2n. The new method produces an absolute error of the mixing-depth estimates comparable to the vertical range resolution of the profilers.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Laura Bianco, NOAA/ESRL/PSD, R/PSD3, 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80305-3328. Email: laura.bianco@noaa.gov

This article included in the Fifth International Symposium on Tropospheric Profiling (ISTP) special collection.

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