Uncertainty of Boundary Layer Heat Budgets Computed from Wind Profiler—RASS Networks

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  • 1 Pacific Northwest Laboratory, Richland, Washington
  • | 2 NOAA Environmental Technology Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

Uncertainties in the evaluation of the atmospheric heat budget, in which the turbulent heat flux divergence term is calculated as a residual, are investigated for a triangular array of 915-MHz wind profilers—radio acoustic sounding systems (RASS) using a surface-integral method. A scaling analysis of the residual error heat budget equation reveals the basic characteristics and magnitudes of the uncertainties. These values are verified with a Monte Carlo simulation technique for synthetic datasets in which the triangle size is of the order of 30 km (meso-γ scale). The uncertainties depend on measurement errors, atmospheric stability, mean wind speed, triangle size, and averaging time. In addition, we estimate the effects of baroclinity and mean wind divergence on the accuracy of the calculation of the heat budget.

Idealized, barotropic, and divergence-free conditions are studied to investigate the influence of various instrument accuracies on profiles of the turbulent virtual potential temperature flux divergence term. Results show that this term can be computed as a residual of the other terms with an uncertainty that varies from approximately 0.4 to 1.6 K h−1 for typical ranges of mean wind speed and stability, given current accuracies for 1-h averages of wind profiler—RASS. Uncertainties of the remaining terms in the equation are smaller. Although the uncertainties found are of about the same magnitude as typical maximum daytime boundary layer turbulent sensible heat flux divergences, 1.2 K h−1, it is found that under favorable conditions meaningful turbulent heat flux divergences can be obtained. The computations, however, become very uncertain under conditions of strong baroclinity or wind divergence.

Abstract

Uncertainties in the evaluation of the atmospheric heat budget, in which the turbulent heat flux divergence term is calculated as a residual, are investigated for a triangular array of 915-MHz wind profilers—radio acoustic sounding systems (RASS) using a surface-integral method. A scaling analysis of the residual error heat budget equation reveals the basic characteristics and magnitudes of the uncertainties. These values are verified with a Monte Carlo simulation technique for synthetic datasets in which the triangle size is of the order of 30 km (meso-γ scale). The uncertainties depend on measurement errors, atmospheric stability, mean wind speed, triangle size, and averaging time. In addition, we estimate the effects of baroclinity and mean wind divergence on the accuracy of the calculation of the heat budget.

Idealized, barotropic, and divergence-free conditions are studied to investigate the influence of various instrument accuracies on profiles of the turbulent virtual potential temperature flux divergence term. Results show that this term can be computed as a residual of the other terms with an uncertainty that varies from approximately 0.4 to 1.6 K h−1 for typical ranges of mean wind speed and stability, given current accuracies for 1-h averages of wind profiler—RASS. Uncertainties of the remaining terms in the equation are smaller. Although the uncertainties found are of about the same magnitude as typical maximum daytime boundary layer turbulent sensible heat flux divergences, 1.2 K h−1, it is found that under favorable conditions meaningful turbulent heat flux divergences can be obtained. The computations, however, become very uncertain under conditions of strong baroclinity or wind divergence.

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