The Impact of Land-Surface Wetness Heterogeneity on Mesoscale Heat Fluxes

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  • 1 Department of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey
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Abstract

Vertical heat fluxes associated with mesoscale circulations generated by land-surface wetness discontinuities are often stronger than turbulent fluxes, especially in the upper part of the atmospheric planetary boundary layer. As a result, they contribute significantly to the subgrid-scale fluxes in large-scale atmospheric models. Yet they are not considered in these models. To provide some insights into the possible parameterization of these fluxes in large-scale models, a state-of-the-art mesoscale numerical model was used to investigate the relationships between mesoscale heat fluxes and atmospheric and land-surface characteristics that play a key role in the generation of mesoscale circulations. The distribution of land-surface wetness, the wavenumber and the wavelength of the land-surface discontinuities, and the large-scale wind speed have a significant impact on the mesoscale heat fluxes. Empirical functions were derived to characterize the relationships between mesoscale heat fluxes and the spatial distribution of land-surface wetness. The strongest mesoscale heat fluxes were obtained for a wavelength of forcing corresponding approximately to the local Rossby deformation radius. The mesoscale heat fluxes are weakened by large-scale background winds but remain significant even with moderate winds.

Abstract

Vertical heat fluxes associated with mesoscale circulations generated by land-surface wetness discontinuities are often stronger than turbulent fluxes, especially in the upper part of the atmospheric planetary boundary layer. As a result, they contribute significantly to the subgrid-scale fluxes in large-scale atmospheric models. Yet they are not considered in these models. To provide some insights into the possible parameterization of these fluxes in large-scale models, a state-of-the-art mesoscale numerical model was used to investigate the relationships between mesoscale heat fluxes and atmospheric and land-surface characteristics that play a key role in the generation of mesoscale circulations. The distribution of land-surface wetness, the wavenumber and the wavelength of the land-surface discontinuities, and the large-scale wind speed have a significant impact on the mesoscale heat fluxes. Empirical functions were derived to characterize the relationships between mesoscale heat fluxes and the spatial distribution of land-surface wetness. The strongest mesoscale heat fluxes were obtained for a wavelength of forcing corresponding approximately to the local Rossby deformation radius. The mesoscale heat fluxes are weakened by large-scale background winds but remain significant even with moderate winds.

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