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Numerical Simulation of Nonlinear Mesoscale Circulations Induced by the Thermal Heterogeneities of Land Surface

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  • 1 Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
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Abstract

Mesoscale circulations forced by a random distribution of surface sensible heat flux have been investigated using a three-dimensional numerical model. The complex land surface is modeled as a homogeneous random field characterized by a spectral distribution. Standard deviation and length scale of the sensible heat flux at the surface have been identified as the important parameters that describe the thermal variability of land surface. The form of the covariance of the random surface forcing is not critical in driving the mesoscale circulation. The thermally induced mesoscale circulation is significant and extends up to about 5 km when the atmosphere is neutral. It becomes weak and is suppressed when the atmosphere is stable. The mesoscale momentum flux is much stronger than the corresponding turbulent momentum flux in the neutral atmosphere, while the two are comparable in the stable atmosphere. The mesoscale heat flux has a different vertical profile than turbulent heat flux and may provide a major heat transport mechanism beyond the planetary boundary layer. The impact of synoptic wind on the mesoscale circulations is relatively weak. Nonlinear advection terms are responsible for momentum flux in the absence of synoptic wind.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Jingfeng Wang, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 48-320, Ralph M. Parsons Laboratory, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307.

Email: jfwang@mit.edu

Abstract

Mesoscale circulations forced by a random distribution of surface sensible heat flux have been investigated using a three-dimensional numerical model. The complex land surface is modeled as a homogeneous random field characterized by a spectral distribution. Standard deviation and length scale of the sensible heat flux at the surface have been identified as the important parameters that describe the thermal variability of land surface. The form of the covariance of the random surface forcing is not critical in driving the mesoscale circulation. The thermally induced mesoscale circulation is significant and extends up to about 5 km when the atmosphere is neutral. It becomes weak and is suppressed when the atmosphere is stable. The mesoscale momentum flux is much stronger than the corresponding turbulent momentum flux in the neutral atmosphere, while the two are comparable in the stable atmosphere. The mesoscale heat flux has a different vertical profile than turbulent heat flux and may provide a major heat transport mechanism beyond the planetary boundary layer. The impact of synoptic wind on the mesoscale circulations is relatively weak. Nonlinear advection terms are responsible for momentum flux in the absence of synoptic wind.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Jingfeng Wang, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 48-320, Ralph M. Parsons Laboratory, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307.

Email: jfwang@mit.edu

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