Significant spatial heterogeneities of daytime surface sensible heat flux are common over land within mesoscale domains. Thermally induced circulations, similar to the sea/lake breeze [termed nonclassical mesoscale circulations (NCMCs)], are anticipated in these situations. Growing research interest in NCMCs has developed in the recent decade. In this article, general quantifications of NCMC characteristics are sun/eyed based on modeling and observational studies, along with further elaborations on specific NCMCs.
The numerical modeling studies have indicated NCMCs with intensity comparable to the sea breeze in the ideal situations of sharp contrast between extended wet soil or crop and adjacent dry land areas. Similar results were obtained when contrasts of cloud with clear sky and snow with snow-free areas were considered. For less ideal contrasts, as well as for thermal contrasts generated by some other types of forcing, weaker NCMCs were simulated.
The limited observational studies have suggested that, for some potential NCMC situations, noticeable horizontal thermal gradients are produced within the lower atmosphere. In general, however, pronounced NCMC flows have not been indicated with great certainty. In many of the potential NCMC situations, the small sizes of the areas in which sensible heat flux is modified compared with the surrounding areas suggest reduced intensity of circulations in the real world, particularly in the presence of an opposing background flow. Additionally, nonuniformity of the surface sensible heat fluxes in one or both of the contrasting surfaces is likely to be an important factor in reducing the real-world intensity of NCMCs. It is concluded that emphasis on observations is essential for further progress in quantification of real-world NCMCs.