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Convective Boundary Layers Driven by Nonstationary Surface Heat Fluxes

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  • 1 Department of Multi-Scale Physics, Delft University of Technology, Delft, Netherlands
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Abstract

In this study the response of dry convective boundary layers to nonstationary surface heat fluxes is systematically investigated. This is relevant not only during sunset and sunrise but also, for example, when clouds modulate incoming solar radiation. Because the time scale of the associated change in surface heat fluxes may differ from case to case, the authors consider the generic situation of oscillatory surface heat fluxes with different frequencies and amplitudes and study the response of the boundary layer in terms of transfer functions. To this end both a mixed layer model (MLM) and a large-eddy simulation (LES) model are used; the latter is used to evaluate the predictive quality of the mixed layer model. The mixed layer model performs generally quite well for slow changes in the surface heat flux and provides analytical understanding of the transfer characteristics of the boundary layer such as amplitude and phase lag. For rapidly changing surface fluxes (i.e., changes within a time frame comparable to the large eddy turnover time), it proves important to account for the time it takes for the information to travel from the surface to higher levels of the boundary layer such as the inversion zone. As a follow-up to a 1997 study by Sorbjan, who showed that the conventional convective velocity scale is inadequate as a scaling quantity during the decay phase, this paper addresses the issue of defining, in (generic) transitional situations, a velocity scale that is solely based on the surface heat flux and its history.

Corresponding author address: Harm Jonker, Dept. of Multi-Scale Physics, Delft University of Technology, P.O. Box 5046, 2600 GA, Delft, Netherlands. E-mail: h.j.j.jonker@tudelft.nl

Abstract

In this study the response of dry convective boundary layers to nonstationary surface heat fluxes is systematically investigated. This is relevant not only during sunset and sunrise but also, for example, when clouds modulate incoming solar radiation. Because the time scale of the associated change in surface heat fluxes may differ from case to case, the authors consider the generic situation of oscillatory surface heat fluxes with different frequencies and amplitudes and study the response of the boundary layer in terms of transfer functions. To this end both a mixed layer model (MLM) and a large-eddy simulation (LES) model are used; the latter is used to evaluate the predictive quality of the mixed layer model. The mixed layer model performs generally quite well for slow changes in the surface heat flux and provides analytical understanding of the transfer characteristics of the boundary layer such as amplitude and phase lag. For rapidly changing surface fluxes (i.e., changes within a time frame comparable to the large eddy turnover time), it proves important to account for the time it takes for the information to travel from the surface to higher levels of the boundary layer such as the inversion zone. As a follow-up to a 1997 study by Sorbjan, who showed that the conventional convective velocity scale is inadequate as a scaling quantity during the decay phase, this paper addresses the issue of defining, in (generic) transitional situations, a velocity scale that is solely based on the surface heat flux and its history.

Corresponding author address: Harm Jonker, Dept. of Multi-Scale Physics, Delft University of Technology, P.O. Box 5046, 2600 GA, Delft, Netherlands. E-mail: h.j.j.jonker@tudelft.nl
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