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Bowen Zhou, Shiwei Sun, Jianning Sun, and Kefeng Zhu


The vertical turbulent velocity variance normalized by the convective velocity squared as a function of the boundary layer depth–normalized height [i.e., ] in the convective boundary layer (CBL) over a homogeneous surface exhibits a near-universal profile, as demonstrated by field observations, laboratory experiments, and numerical simulations. The profile holds over a wide CBL stability range set by the friction velocity, CBL depth, and surface heating. In contrast, the normalized horizontal turbulent velocity variance increases monotonically with decreasing stability. This study investigates the independence of the profile to changes in CBL stability, or more precisely, wind shear. Large-eddy simulations of several convective and neutral cases are performed by varying surface heating and geostrophic winds. Analysis of the turbulent kinetic energy budgets reveals that the conversion term between and depends almost entirely on buoyancy. This explains why does not vary with shear, which is a source to only. Further analysis through rotational and divergent decomposition suggests that the near-universal profile of is fundamentally related to the dynamics and interactions of local and nonlocal CBL turbulence. Specifically, the preferential interactions between local wavenumbers and the downscale energy cascade of CBL turbulence offer plausible explanations to the universal profile of .

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Shiwei Sun, Bowen Zhou, Ming Xue, and Kefeng Zhu


In numerical simulations of deep convection at kilometer-scale horizontal resolutions, in-cloud subgrid-scale (SGS) turbulence plays an important role in the transport of heat, moisture, and other scalars. By coarse graining a 50 m high-resolution large-eddy simulation (LES) of an idealized supercell storm to kilometer-scale grid spacings ranging from 250 m to 4 km, the SGS fluxes of heat, moisture, cloud, and precipitating water contents are diagnosed a priori. The kilometer-scale simulations are shown to be within the “gray zone” as in-cloud SGS turbulent fluxes are comparable in magnitude to the resolved fluxes at 4 km spacing, and do not become negligible until ~500 m spacing. Vertical and horizontal SGS fluxes are of comparable magnitudes; both exhibit nonlocal characteristics associated with deep convection as opposed to local gradient-diffusion type of turbulent mixing. As such, they are poorly parameterized by eddy-diffusivity-based closures. To improve the SGS representation of turbulent fluxes in deep convective storms, a scale-similarity LES closure is adapted to kilometer-scale simulations. The model exhibits good correlations with LES-diagnosed SGS fluxes, and is capable of representing countergradient fluxes. In a posteriori tests, supercell storms simulated with the refined similarity closure model at kilometer-scale resolutions show better agreement with the LES benchmark in terms of SGS fluxes than those with a turbulent-kinetic-energy-based gradient-diffusion scheme. However, it underestimates the strength of updrafts, which is suggested to be a consequence of the model effective resolution being lower than the native grid resolution.

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Bowen Zhou, Shiwei Sun, Kai Yao, and Kefeng Zhu


Turbulent mixing in the daytime convective boundary layer (CBL) is carried out by organized nonlocal updrafts and smaller local eddies. In the upper mixed layer of the CBL, heat fluxes associated with nonlocal updrafts are directed up the local potential temperature gradient. To reproduce such countergradient behavior in parameterizations, a class of planetary boundary layer schemes adopts a countergradient correction term in addition to the classic downgradient eddy-diffusion term. Such schemes are popular because of their simple formulation and effective performance. This study reexamines those schemes to investigate the physical representations of the gradient and countergradient (GCG) terms, and to rebut the often-implied association of the GCG terms with heat fluxes due to local and nonlocal (LNL) eddies. To do so, large-eddy simulations (LESs) of six idealized CBL cases are performed. The GCG fluxes are computed a priori with horizontally averaged LES data, while the LNL fluxes are diagnosed through conditional sampling and Fourier decomposition of the LES flow field. It is found that in the upper mixed layer, the gradient term predicts downward fluxes in the presence of positive mean potential temperature gradient but is compensated by the upward countergradient correction flux, which is larger than the total heat flux. However, neither downward local fluxes nor larger-than-total nonlocal fluxes are diagnosed from LES. The difference reflects reduced turbulence efficiency for GCG fluxes and, in terms of physics, conceptual deficiencies in the GCG representation of CBL heat fluxes.

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