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  • Author or Editor: Sandip Pal x
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Nicholas E. Clark
,
Sandip Pal
, and
Temple R. Lee

Abstract

Despite many observational studies on the atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) depth zi variability across various time scales (e.g., diurnal, seasonal, annual, and decadal), zi variability before, during, and after frontal passages over land, or simply zi variability as a function of weather patterns, has remained relatively unexplored. In this study, we provide an empirical framework using 5 years (2014–18) of daytime rawinsonde observations and surface analyses over 18 central and southeastern U.S. sites to report zi variability across frontal boundaries. By providing systematic observations of front-relative contrasts in zi (i.e., zi differences between warm and cold sectors, Δ z i = z i Warm z i Cold ) and boundary layer moisture (i.e., ABL-q) regimes in summer and winter, we propose a new paradigm to study zi changes across cold-frontal boundaries. For most cases, we found deeper zi over the warm sector than the cold sector in both summer and winter, although with significant site-to-site variability in Δzi . Additionally, our results show a positive Δq ABL (i.e., frontal contrasts in ABL-q) in summer and winter, supporting what is typically observed in midlatitude cyclones. We found that a front-relative Δq ABL of 1 g kg−1 often yielded at least a 100-m Δzi across the frontal boundary in both summer and winter. This work provides a synoptic-scale basis for zi variability and establishes a foundation for model verification to examine the impact of airmass exchange associated with advection on zi . This work will advance our understanding of ABL processes in synoptic environments and help unravel sources of front-relative zi variability.

Significance Statement

The atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) is the lowermost part of the atmosphere adjacent to Earth’s surface. The irregular motion of air inside the ABL plays an essential role in relocating air near the surface to the free troposphere. Meteorologists use ABL depth in weather forecast models to determine the atmosphere’s ability to dilute or enrich tracers within the ABL. However, knowledge about the changes in ABL depth during stormy conditions remains incomplete. Here, we investigate how the ABL depth varies before and after cold-frontal passages. We found that ABL depths were much deeper before the cold-frontal passages than after. This knowledge will help us develop new approaches to consider how storms modify the ABL in weather forecast models.

Open access
Temple R. Lee
,
Sandip Pal
,
Praveena Krishnan
,
Brian Hirth
,
Mark Heuer
,
Tilden P. Meyers
,
Rick D. Saylor
, and
John Schroeder

Abstract

Surface-layer parameterizations for heat, mass, momentum, and turbulence exchange are a critical component of the land surface models (LSMs) used in weather prediction and climate models. Although formulations derived from Monin–Obukhov similarity theory (MOST) have long been used, bulk Richardson (Ri b ) parameterizations have recently been suggested as a MOST alternative but have been evaluated over a limited number of land-cover and climate types. Examining the parameterizations’ applicability over other regions, particularly drylands that cover approximately 41% of terrestrial land surfaces, is a critical step toward implementing the parameterizations into LSMs. One year (1 January–31 December 2018) of eddy covariance measurements from a 10-m tower in southeastern Arizona and a 200-m tower in western Texas were used to determine how well the Ri b parameterizations for friction velocity ( u * ), sensible heat flux (H), and turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) compare against MOST-derived parameterizations of these quantities. Independent of stability, wind speed regime, and season, the Ri b u * and TKE parameterizations performed better than the MOST parameterizations, whereas MOST better represented H. Observations from the 200-m tower indicated that the parameterizations’ performance degraded as a function of height above ground. Overall, the Ri b parameterizations revealed promising results, confirming better performance than traditional MOST relationships for kinematic (i.e., u * ) and turbulence (i.e., TKE) quantities, although caution is needed when applying the Ri b H parameterizations to drylands. These findings represent an important milestone for the applicability of Ri b parameterizations, given the large fraction of Earth’s surface covered by drylands.

Significance Statement

Weather forecasting models rely upon complex mathematical relationships to predict temperature, wind, and moisture. Monin–Obukhov similarity theory (MOST) has long been used to forecast these quantities near the land surface, even though MOST’s limitations are well known in the scientific community. Researchers have suggested an alternative to MOST called the bulk Richardson (Ri b ) approach. To allow for the Ri b approach to be used in weather forecasting models, the approach needs to be tested over different land-cover and climate types. In this study, we applied the Ri b approach to dry areas of the United States and found that the approach better represented turbulence variables than MOST relationships. These findings are an important step toward using Ri b relationships in weather forecasting models.

Open access