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Mikhail Ovchinnikov
Jerome D. Fast
Larry K. Berg
William I. Gustafson Jr.
Jingyi Chen
Koichi Sakaguchi
, and
Heng Xiao


Atmospheric properties in a convective boundary layer vary over a wide range of spatial scales and are commonly studied using large-eddy simulations (LES) in various configurations. We examine how the boundary layer depth and distribution of variability across scales are affected by LES grid spacing, domain size, inhomogeneity of surface properties, and external forcing. Two different setups of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model are analyzed. A semi-idealized configuration uses a periodic domain, flat surface, prescribed homogeneous surface heat fluxes, and horizontally uniform profiles of large-scale advective tendencies. A nested LES setup employs a larger domain and realistic initial and boundary conditions, including an interactive land surface model with representative topography and vegetation and soil types. Subdomains of identical size are analyzed for all simulations. Characteristic structure sizes are quantified using the variability scales L 50 and L 95, defined such that features smaller than that contain 50% and 95% of the total variance, respectively. Progressive increase in L 50 from vertical velocity to temperature and moisture structures is systematically reproduced in all simulation configurations. This dependence of L 50 on the considered variable complicates the development of scale-aware parameterizations for models with grid spacing in the “terra incognita.” In simulations using a larger domain with heterogeneous surface properties, the development of internal mesoscale patterns significantly affects variance distributions inside analyzed subdomains. Sizes of boundary layer structures also strongly depend on the LES grid spacing and, in case of heterogeneous surface and topography, on location of the subdomain inside a larger computational domain.

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