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Nested Large-Eddy Simulations of the Intermittently Turbulent Stable Atmospheric Boundary Layer over Real Terrain

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  • 1 Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California
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Abstract

The nighttime stable atmospheric boundary layer over real terrain is modeled with nested high-resolution large-eddy simulations (LESs). The field site is located near Leon, Kansas, where the 1999 Cooperative Atmosphere–Surface Exchange Study took place. The terrain is mostly flat with an average slope of 0.5°. The main topographic feature is a shallow valley oriented in the east–west direction. The night of 5 October is selected to study intermittent turbulence under prevailing quiescent conditions. Brief turbulent periods triggered by shear-instability waves are modeled with good magnitude and temporal precision with a dynamic reconstruction turbulence closure. In comparison, conventional closures fail to excite turbulent motions and predict a false laminar flow. A plausible new intermittency mechanism, previously unknown owing to limited spatial coverage of field instruments at this site, is unveiled with the LESs. Turbulence can be generated through gravity wave breaking over a stagnant cold-air bubble in the valley upwind of the main tower. The bubble is preceded by the formation of a valley cold-air pool due to down-valley drainage flows during the evening transition. The bubble grows in depth by entraining cold down-valley and downslope flows from below and is eroded by shear-induced wave breaking on the top. The cyclic process of formation and erosion is repeated during the night, leading to sporadic turbulent bursting.

Corresponding author address: Tina Chow, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, 621 Davis Hall, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-1710. E-mail: tinakc@berkeley.edu

Abstract

The nighttime stable atmospheric boundary layer over real terrain is modeled with nested high-resolution large-eddy simulations (LESs). The field site is located near Leon, Kansas, where the 1999 Cooperative Atmosphere–Surface Exchange Study took place. The terrain is mostly flat with an average slope of 0.5°. The main topographic feature is a shallow valley oriented in the east–west direction. The night of 5 October is selected to study intermittent turbulence under prevailing quiescent conditions. Brief turbulent periods triggered by shear-instability waves are modeled with good magnitude and temporal precision with a dynamic reconstruction turbulence closure. In comparison, conventional closures fail to excite turbulent motions and predict a false laminar flow. A plausible new intermittency mechanism, previously unknown owing to limited spatial coverage of field instruments at this site, is unveiled with the LESs. Turbulence can be generated through gravity wave breaking over a stagnant cold-air bubble in the valley upwind of the main tower. The bubble is preceded by the formation of a valley cold-air pool due to down-valley drainage flows during the evening transition. The bubble grows in depth by entraining cold down-valley and downslope flows from below and is eroded by shear-induced wave breaking on the top. The cyclic process of formation and erosion is repeated during the night, leading to sporadic turbulent bursting.

Corresponding author address: Tina Chow, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, 621 Davis Hall, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-1710. E-mail: tinakc@berkeley.edu
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