Linking Boundary-Layer Circulations and Surface Processes during FIFE 89. Part I: Observational Analysis

Eric A. Smith Department of Meteorology and Supercomputer Computations Research Institute, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida

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Mickey M-K. Wai Department of Meteorology and Supercomputer Computations Research Institute, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida

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Harry J. Cooper Department of Meteorology and Supercomputer Computations Research Institute, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida

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Michael T. Rubes Department of Meteorology and Supercomputer Computations Research Institute, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida

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Ann Hsu NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

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Abstract

Surface, aircraft, and satellite observations are analyzed for the 21-day 1989 intensive field campaign of the First ISLSCP Field Experiment (FIFE) to determine the effect of precipitation, vegetation, and soil moisture distributions on the thermal properties of the surface including the heat and moisture fluxes, and the corresponding response in the boundary-layer circulation. Mean and variance properties of the surface variables are first documented at various time and space scales. These calculations are designed to set the stage for Part II, a modeling study that will focus on how time–space dependent rainfall distribution influences the intensity of the feedback between a vegetated surface and the atmospheric boundary layer. Further analysis shows strongly demarked vegetation and soil moisture gradients extending across the FIFE experimental site that were developed and maintained by the antecedent and ongoing spatial distribution of rainfall over the region. These gradients are shown to have a pronounced influence on the thermodynamic properties of the surface. Furthermore, perturbation surface wind analysis suggests for both short-term steady-state conditions and long-term averaged conditions that the gradient pattern maintained a diurnally oscillating local direct circulation with perturbation vertical velocities of the same order as developing cumulus clouds. Dynamical and scaling considerations suggest that the embedded perturbation circulation is driven by surface heating/cooling gradients and terrain effects rather than the manifestation of an inertial oscillation. The implication is that at even relatively small scales <30 km), the differential evolution in vegetation density and soil moisture distribution over a relatively homogenous ecotone can give rise to preferential boundary-layer circulations capable of modifying local-scale horizontal and vertical motions.

Abstract

Surface, aircraft, and satellite observations are analyzed for the 21-day 1989 intensive field campaign of the First ISLSCP Field Experiment (FIFE) to determine the effect of precipitation, vegetation, and soil moisture distributions on the thermal properties of the surface including the heat and moisture fluxes, and the corresponding response in the boundary-layer circulation. Mean and variance properties of the surface variables are first documented at various time and space scales. These calculations are designed to set the stage for Part II, a modeling study that will focus on how time–space dependent rainfall distribution influences the intensity of the feedback between a vegetated surface and the atmospheric boundary layer. Further analysis shows strongly demarked vegetation and soil moisture gradients extending across the FIFE experimental site that were developed and maintained by the antecedent and ongoing spatial distribution of rainfall over the region. These gradients are shown to have a pronounced influence on the thermodynamic properties of the surface. Furthermore, perturbation surface wind analysis suggests for both short-term steady-state conditions and long-term averaged conditions that the gradient pattern maintained a diurnally oscillating local direct circulation with perturbation vertical velocities of the same order as developing cumulus clouds. Dynamical and scaling considerations suggest that the embedded perturbation circulation is driven by surface heating/cooling gradients and terrain effects rather than the manifestation of an inertial oscillation. The implication is that at even relatively small scales <30 km), the differential evolution in vegetation density and soil moisture distribution over a relatively homogenous ecotone can give rise to preferential boundary-layer circulations capable of modifying local-scale horizontal and vertical motions.

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