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Dan Li and Elie Bou-Zeid

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Cities are well known to be hotter than the rural areas that surround them; this phenomenon is called the urban heat island. Heat waves are excessively hot periods during which the air temperatures of both urban and rural areas increase significantly. However, whether urban and rural temperatures respond in the same way to heat waves remains a critical unanswered question. In this study, a combination of observational and modeling analyses indicates synergies between urban heat islands and heat waves. That is, not only do heat waves increase the ambient temperatures, but they also intensify the difference between urban and rural temperatures. As a result, the added heat stress in cities will be even higher than the sum of the background urban heat island effect and the heat wave effect. Results presented here also attribute this added impact of heat waves on urban areas to the lack of surface moisture in urban areas and the low wind speed associated with heat waves. Given that heat waves are projected to become more frequent and that urban populations are substantially increasing, these findings underline the serious heat-related health risks facing urban residents in the twenty-first century. Adaptation and mitigation strategies will require joint efforts to reinvent the city, allowing for more green spaces and lesser disruption of the natural water cycle.

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Jing Huang and Elie Bou-Zeid

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This study seeks to quantitatively and qualitatively understand how stability affects transport in the continuously turbulent stably stratified atmospheric boundary layer, based on a suite of large-eddy simulations. The test cases are based on the one adopted by the Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment (GEWEX) Atmospheric Boundary Layer Study (GABLS) project, but with a largely expanded stability range where the gradient Richardson number (Rig) reaches up to around 1. The analysis is mainly focused on understanding the modification of turbulent structures and dynamics with increasing stability in order to improve the modeling of the stable atmospheric boundary layer in weather and climate models, a topic addressed in Part II of this work. It is found that at quasi equilibrium, an increase in stability results in stronger vertical gradients of the mean temperature, a lowered low-level jet, a decrease in vertical momentum transport, an increase in vertical buoyancy flux, and a shallower boundary layer. Analysis of coherent turbulent structures using two-point autocorrelation reveals that the autocorrelation of the streamwise velocity is horizontally anisotropic while the autocorrelation of the vertical velocity is relatively isotropic in the horizontal plane and its integral length scale decreases as stability increases. The effects of stability on the overall turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) and its budget terms are also investigated, and it is shown that the authors' large-eddy simulation results are in good agreement with previous experimental findings across varied stabilities. Finally, Nieuwstadt's local-scaling theory is reexamined and it is concluded that the height z is not a relevant scaling parameter and should be replaced by a constant length scale away from the surface, indicating that the z-less range starts lower than previously assumed.

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Jiachuan Yang and Elie Bou-Zeid

Abstract

The higher temperature in cities relative to their rural surroundings, known as the urban heat island (UHI), is one of the most well documented and severe anthropogenic modifications of the environment. Heat islands are hazardous to residents and the sustainability of cities during summertime and heat waves; on the other hand, they provide considerable benefits in wintertime. Yet, the evolution of UHIs during cold waves has not yet been explored. In this study, ground-based observations from 12 U.S. cities and high-resolution weather simulations show that UHIs not only warm urban areas in the winter but also further intensify during cold waves by up to 1.32° ± 0.78°C (mean ± standard deviation) at night relative to precedent and subsequent periods. Anthropogenic heat released from building heating is found to contribute more than 30% of the UHI intensification. UHIs thus serve as shelters against extreme-cold events and provide benefits that include mitigating cold hazard and reducing heating demand. More important, simulations indicate that standard UHI mitigation measures such as green or cool roofs reduce these cold-wave benefits to different extents. Cities, particularly in cool and cold temperate climates, should hence revisit their policies to favor (existing) mitigation approaches that are effective only during hot periods.

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Mostafa Momen and Elie Bou-Zeid
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Mostafa Momen and Elie Bou-Zeid

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The Ekman boundary layer (EBL) is a central problem in geophysical fluid dynamics that emerges when the pressure gradient force, the Coriolis force, and the frictional force interact in a flow. The unsteady version of the problem, which occurs when these forces are not in equilibrium, is solvable analytically only for a limited set of forcing variability regimes, and the resulting solutions are intricate and not always easy to interpret. In this paper, large-eddy simulations (LESs) of neutral atmospheric EBLs are conducted under various unsteady forcings to reveal the range of physical characteristics of the flow. Subsequently, it is demonstrated that the dynamics of the unsteady EBL can be reduced to a second-order ordinary differential equation that is very similar to the dynamical equation of a damped oscillator, such as a mass–spring–damper system. The validation of the proposed reduced model is performed by comparing its analytical solutions to LES results, revealing very good agreement. The reduced model can be solved for a wide range of variable forcing conditions, and this feature is exploited in the paper to elucidate the physical origin of the inertia (mass), energy storage (spring), and energy dissipation (damper) attributes of Ekman flows.

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Charles Talbot, Elie Bou-Zeid, and Jim Smith

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This paper assesses the performance of the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) as a tool for multiscale atmospheric simulations. Tests are performed in real and idealized cases with multiple configurations and with resolutions ranging from the mesoscale (gridcell size ~10 km) for the real cases to local scales (gridcell size ~50 m) for both real and idealized cases. All idealized simulations and the finest real-case simulations use the turbulence-resolving large-eddy simulation mode of WRF (WRF-LES). Tests in neutral conditions and with idealized forcing are first performed to assess the model’s sensitivity to grid resolutions and subgrid-scale parameterizations and to optimize the setup of the real cases. An increase in horizontal model resolution is found to be more beneficial than an increase in vertical resolution. WRF-LES is then tested, using extensive observational data, in real-world cases over complex terrain through nested simulations in which the mesoscale domains drive the LES domains. Analysis of the mesoscale simulations indicates that the data needed to force the largest simulated domain and to initialize surface parameters have the strongest influence on the results. Similarly, LES model fields are primarily influenced by their mesoscale meteorological forcing. As a result, the nesting of LES models down to a 50-m resolution does not improve all aspects of hydrometeorological predictions. Advantages of using fine-resolution LES are noted at nighttime (under stable conditions) and over heterogeneous surfaces when local properties are required or when resolving small-scale surface features is desirable.

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Mostafa Momen, Elie Bou-Zeid, Marc B. Parlange, and Marco Giometto

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This paper investigates the effects of baroclinic pressure gradients on mean flow and turbulence in the diabatic atmospheric boundary layer (ABL). Large-eddy simulations are conducted where the direction of the baroclinicity, its strength, and the surface buoyancy flux are systematically varied to examine their interacting effects. The thermal wind vector, which represents the vertical change in the geostrophic wind vector resulting from horizontal temperature gradients, significantly influences the velocity profiles, the Ekman turning, and the strength and location of the low-level jet (LLJ). For instance, cold advection and positive (negative) geostrophic shear increased (decreased) friction velocity and changed the LLJ elevation. Given the baroclinicity strength and direction under neutral conditions, a simple reduced model is proposed and validated here to predict the general trends of baroclinic mean winds. The baroclinic effects on turbulence intensity and structure are even more intricate, with turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) profiles displaying an increase of TKE magnitude with height for some cases. When a fixed destabilizing surface heat flux is added, a positive geostrophic shear favors streamwise aligned roll-type structures, which are typical of neutral ABLs. Conversely, a negative geostrophic shear promotes cell-type structures, which are typical of strongly unstable ABLs. Furthermore, baroclinicity increases shear in the outer ABL and tends to make the outer flow more neutral by decreasing the Richardson flux number. These findings are consequential for meteorological measurements and the wind-energy industry, among others: baroclinicity alters the mean wind profiles, the TKE, coherent structures, and the stability of the ABL, and its effects need to be considered.

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Elie Bou-Zeid, Marc B. Parlange, and Charles Meneveau

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A parameterization for surface roughness and blending height at regional scales, under neutral atmospheric stability, is studied and tested. The analysis is based on a suite of large-eddy simulations (LES) over surfaces with varying roughness height and multiple variability scales. The LES are based on the scale-dependent Lagrangian dynamic subgrid-scale model, and the surface roughnesses at the ground are imposed using the rough-wall logarithmic law. Several patterns of roughness distribution are considered, including random tiling of patches with a wide distribution of length scales. An integral length scale, based on the one-dimensional structure function of the spatially variable roughness height, is used to define the characteristic surface variability scale, which is a critical input in many regional parameterization schemes. Properties of the simulated flow are discussed with special emphasis on the turbulence properties over patches of unequal roughness. The simulations are then used to assess a generalized form of the parameterization for the blending height and the equivalent surface roughness at regional scales that has been developed earlier for regular patterns of surface roughness (regular stripes). The results are also compared with other parameterizations proposed in the literature. Good agreement is found between the simulations and the regional-scale parameterization for the surface roughness and the blending height when this parameterization is combined with the characteristic surface variability scale proposed in this paper.

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Jing Huang, Elie Bou-Zeid, and Jean-Christophe Golaz

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This is the second part of a study about turbulence and vertical fluxes in the stable atmospheric boundary layer. Based on a suite of large-eddy simulations in Part I where the effects of stability on the turbulent structures and kinetic energy are investigated, first-order parameterization schemes are assessed and tested in the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL)’s single-column model. The applicability of the gradient-flux hypothesis is first examined and it is found that stable conditions are favorable for that hypothesis. However, the concept of introducing a stability correction function fm as a multiplicative factor into the mixing length used under neutral conditions lN is shown to be problematic because fm computed a priori from large-eddy simulations tends not to be a universal function of stability. With this observation, a novel mixing-length model is proposed, which conforms to large-eddy simulation results much better under stable conditions and converges to the classic model under neutral conditions. Test cases imposing steady as well as unsteady forcings are developed to evaluate the performance of the new model. It is found that the new model exhibits robust performance as the stability strength is changed, while other models are sensitive to changes in stability. For cases with unsteady forcings, which are very rarely simulated or tested, the results of the single-column model and large-eddy simulations are also closer when the new model is used, compared to the other models. However, unsteady cases are much more challenging for the turbulence closure formulations than cases with steady surface forcing.

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Young-Hee Ryu, James A. Smith, and Elie Bou-Zeid

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The seasonal and diurnal climatologies of precipitable water and water vapor flux in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States are examined. A new method of computing water vapor flux at high temporal resolution in an atmospheric column using global positioning system (GPS) precipitable water, radiosonde data, and velocity–azimuth display (VAD) wind profiles is presented. It is shown that water vapor flux exhibits striking seasonal and diurnal cycles and that the diurnal cycles exhibit rapid transitions over the course of the year. A particularly large change in the diurnal cycle of meridional water vapor flux between spring and summer seasons is found. These features of the water cycle cannot be resolved by twice-a-day radiosonde observations. It is also shown that precipitable water exhibits a pronounced seasonal cycle and a less pronounced diurnal cycle. There are large contrasts in the climatology of water vapor flux between precipitation and nonprecipitation conditions in the mid-Atlantic region. It is hypothesized that the seasonal transition of large-scale flow environments and the change in the degree of differential heating in the mountainous and coastal areas are responsible for the contrasting diurnal cycle between spring and summer seasons.

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