Turbulence and winds below 328 m were measured on 5 successive nights in a program to study tracer transport in the nocturnal boundary layer at a site with moderately complex terrain and mixed land use. The instruments included sonic anemometers and CO2/H2O analyzers at four levels on a 328 m tall tower, a minisodar/RASS system, a midrange sodar, a ceilometer, and an array of 61 m towers. Preliminary simulations indicated satisfactory perfluorocarbon mixing to 68 m but insufficient transport to the 328 m level on both weakly stable and stable nights, possibly due to insufficient turbulence kinetic energy and/or small vertical mixing lengths, or the presence of meso-β fronts, e.g., sea-breeze fronts, that could transport trace chemicals efficiently to 328 m. To examine the problem further, time–height distributions of turbulence kinetic energy (TKE), mixing length, Richardson number, potential temperature, and winds were derived from the observations of mean winds and temperature and the TKE budget equation, interpolated to fit the observations, under the flux/gradient and z-less scaling assumptions, and displayed with aerosol profiles. The results indicated higher and more variable levels of TKE and mixing lengths above a typical turbulence maximum at 30–50 m. Oscillations with periods of ∼2 h were common and occasional meso-β fronts and shear zones between 75 and 150 m were seen, which increased TKE aloft and in some cases led to a poorly defined boundary layer top.
The atmosphere’s boundary layer is the interface between the free atmosphere and natural and human activity near Earth’s surface. The daytime boundary layer has been studied extensively and, because of vigorous sun-driven mixing, is well understood and readily parameterized in forecast and global climate models. In contrast, the nocturnal boundary layer is less well understood or predictable because turbulence is weak and tends to decouple it from the surface and the free atmosphere above. This paper focuses on the least-studied upper part of the nocturnal boundary layer over the southeastern United States where topography and land–sea contrast affect winds, turbulence, and chemical transport.
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Duarte’s current affiliation: National Institute for Space Research, São José dos Campos, Brazil.