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Joseph A. Santanello Jr., Mark A. Friedl, and Michael B. Ek

Abstract

The convective planetary boundary layer (PBL) integrates surface fluxes and conditions over regional and diurnal scales. As a result, the structure and evolution of the PBL contains information directly related to land surface states. To examine the nature and magnitude of land–atmosphere coupling and the interactions and feedbacks controlling PBL development, the authors used a large sample of radiosonde observations collected at the southern Atmospheric Research Measurement Program–Great Plains Cloud and Radiation Testbed (ARM-CART) site in association with simulations of mixed-layer growth from a single-column PBL/land surface model. The model accurately predicts PBL evolution and realistically simulates thermodynamics associated with two key controls on PBL growth: atmospheric stability and soil moisture. The information content of these variables and their influence on PBL height and screen-level temperature can be characterized using statistical methods to describe PBL–land surface coupling over a wide range of conditions. Results also show that the first-order effects of land–atmosphere coupling are manifested in the control of soil moisture and stability on atmospheric demand for evapotranspiration and on the surface energy balance. Two principal land–atmosphere feedback regimes observed during soil moisture drydown periods are identified that complicate direct relationships between PBL and land surface properties, and, as a result, limit the accuracy of uncoupled land surface and traditional PBL growth models. In particular, treatments for entrainment and the role of the residual mixed layer are critical to quantifying diurnal land–atmosphere interactions.

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