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A New Look at Modeling Surface Heterogeneity: Extending Its Influence in the Vertical

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  • 1 Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
  • | 2 Department of Geography, Hunter College of the City University of New York, New York, New York
  • | 3 Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
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Abstract

Heterogeneities in the land surface exist on a wide range of spatial scales and make the coupling between the land surface and the overlying boundary layer complex. This study investigates the vertical extent to which the surface heterogeneities affect the boundary layer turbulence. A technique called “extended mosaic” is presented. It models the coupling between the heterogeneous land surface and the atmosphere by allowing the impact of the subgrid-scale variability to extend throughout the vertical extent of the planetary boundary layer. Simulations with extended mosaic show that there is a GCM level at which the distinct character of the turbulence over different land scene types is homogenized, which the authors call the model blending height. The behavior of the model blending height is an indicator of the mechanism by which the surface heterogeneities extend their direct influence upward into the boundary layer and exert their influence on the climate system. Results are presented that show the behavior of the model blending height and the relationships to atmospheric and surface conditions. The model blending height is generally one-third to one-half of the planetary boundary layer height, although the exact ratio varies with local conditions and the distribution of the underlying vegetation. The model blending height also increases with canopy temperature and sensible heat flux and is influenced by the amount of variability in the surface vegetation and the presence of deciduous trees.

Additional affiliation: Data Assimilation Office, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

Corresponding author address: Andrea Molod, Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences, The Johns Hopkins University, 3400 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 20218. Email: molod@rua.eps.jhu.edu

Abstract

Heterogeneities in the land surface exist on a wide range of spatial scales and make the coupling between the land surface and the overlying boundary layer complex. This study investigates the vertical extent to which the surface heterogeneities affect the boundary layer turbulence. A technique called “extended mosaic” is presented. It models the coupling between the heterogeneous land surface and the atmosphere by allowing the impact of the subgrid-scale variability to extend throughout the vertical extent of the planetary boundary layer. Simulations with extended mosaic show that there is a GCM level at which the distinct character of the turbulence over different land scene types is homogenized, which the authors call the model blending height. The behavior of the model blending height is an indicator of the mechanism by which the surface heterogeneities extend their direct influence upward into the boundary layer and exert their influence on the climate system. Results are presented that show the behavior of the model blending height and the relationships to atmospheric and surface conditions. The model blending height is generally one-third to one-half of the planetary boundary layer height, although the exact ratio varies with local conditions and the distribution of the underlying vegetation. The model blending height also increases with canopy temperature and sensible heat flux and is influenced by the amount of variability in the surface vegetation and the presence of deciduous trees.

Additional affiliation: Data Assimilation Office, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

Corresponding author address: Andrea Molod, Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences, The Johns Hopkins University, 3400 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 20218. Email: molod@rua.eps.jhu.edu

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