Planetary boundary layer

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This movie is a combined visualization of the PBL and wind dynamics over the LA basin for a one-month period. Vertical motion of the PBL is represented by the gray "blanket". The height of the PBL is largely driven by convection associated with the changing surface temperature of the Earth (for example, rising during the day and sinking at night). The colored arrows represent the strength and direction of winds at different altitudes.
Depiction of where the planetary boundary layer lies on a sunny day. PBLimage.jpg
Depiction of where the planetary boundary layer lies on a sunny day.

In meteorology the planetary boundary layer (PBL), also known as the atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) or peplosphere, is the lowest part of the atmosphere and its behaviour is directly influenced by its contact with a planetary surface. [1] On Earth it usually responds to changes in surface radiative forcing in an hour or less. In this layer physical quantities such as flow velocity, temperature, and moisture display rapid fluctuations (turbulence) and vertical mixing is strong. Above the PBL is the "free atmosphere", [2] where the wind is approximately geostrophic (parallel to the isobars), [3] while within the PBL the wind is affected by surface drag and turns across the isobars.

Atmosphere The layer of gases surrounding an astronomical body held by gravity

An atmosphere is a layer or a set of layers of gases surrounding a planet or other material body, that is held in place by the gravity of that body. An atmosphere is more likely to be retained if the gravity it is subject to is high and the temperature of the atmosphere is low.

Planetary surface where the solid (or liquid) material of the outer crust on certain types of astronomical objects contacts the atmosphere or outer space

A planetary surface is where the solid material of the outer crust on certain types of astronomical objects contacts the atmosphere or outer space. Planetary surfaces are found on solid objects of planetary mass, including terrestrial planets, dwarf planets, natural satellites, planetesimals and many other small Solar System bodies (SSSBs). The study of planetary surfaces is a field of planetary geology known as surface geology, but also a focus of a number of fields including planetary cartography, topography, geomorphology, atmospheric sciences, and astronomy. Land is the term given to non-liquid planetary surfaces. The term landing is used to describe the collision of an object with a planetary surface and is usually at a velocity in which the object can remain intact and remain attached.

Radiative forcing

Radiative forcing or climate forcing is the difference between insolation (sunlight) absorbed by the Earth and energy radiated back to space. The influences that cause changes to the Earth’s climate system altering Earth’s radiative equilibrium, forcing temperatures to rise or fall, are called climate forcings. Positive radiative forcing means Earth receives more incoming energy from sunlight than it radiates to space. This net gain of energy will cause warming. Conversely, negative radiative forcing means that Earth loses more energy to space than it receives from the sun, which produces cooling.


Cause of surface wind gradient

The difference in the amount of aerosols below and above the boundary layer is easy to see in this aerial photograph. Light pollution from the city of Berlin is strongly scattered below the layer, but above the layer it mostly propagates out into space. Light pollution and the planetary boundary layer over Berlin.jpg
The difference in the amount of aerosols below and above the boundary layer is easy to see in this aerial photograph. Light pollution from the city of Berlin is strongly scattered below the layer, but above the layer it mostly propagates out into space.

Typically, due to aerodynamic drag, there is a wind gradient in the wind flow just a few hundred meters above the Earth's surface—the surface layer of the planetary boundary layer. Wind speed increases with increasing height above the ground, starting from zero [4] due to the no-slip condition. [5] Flow near the surface encounters obstacles that reduce the wind speed, and introduce random vertical and horizontal velocity components at right angles to the main direction of flow. [6] This turbulence causes vertical mixing between the air moving horizontally at one level and the air at those levels immediately above and below it, which is important in dispersion of pollutants [7] and in soil erosion. [8]

Surface layer The layer of a turbulent fluid most affected by interaction with a solid surface or the surface separating a gas and a liquid where the characteristics of the turbulence depend on distance from the interface

The surface layer is the layer of a turbulent fluid most affected by interaction with a solid surface or the surface separating a gas and a liquid where the characteristics of the turbulence depend on distance from the interface. Surface layers are characterized by large normal gradients of tangential velocity and large concentration gradients of any substances transported to or from the interface.

In fluid dynamics, the no-slip condition for viscous fluids assumes that at a solid boundary, the fluid will have zero velocity relative to the boundary.

In fluid dynamics, turbulence or turbulent flow is fluid motion characterized by chaotic changes in pressure and flow velocity. It is in contrast to a laminar flow, which occurs when a fluid flows in parallel layers, with no disruption between those layers.

The reduction in velocity near the surface is a function of surface roughness, so wind velocity profiles are quite different for different terrain types. [5] Rough, irregular ground, and man-made obstructions on the ground can reduce the geostrophic wind speed by 40% to 50%. [9] [10] Over open water or ice, the reduction may be only 20% to 30%. [11] [12] These effects are taken into account when siting wind turbines. [13] [14]

The geostrophic wind is the theoretical wind that would result from an exact balance between the Coriolis force and the pressure gradient force. This condition is called geostrophic balance. The geostrophic wind is directed parallel to isobars. This balance seldom holds exactly in nature. The true wind almost always differs from the geostrophic wind due to other forces such as friction from the ground. Thus, the actual wind would equal the geostrophic wind only if there were no friction and the isobars were perfectly straight. Despite this, much of the atmosphere outside the tropics is close to geostrophic flow much of the time and it is a valuable first approximation. Geostrophic flow in air or water is a zero-frequency inertial wave.

Wind turbine device that converts wind energy into mechanical and electric energy

A wind turbine, or alternatively referred to as a wind energy converter, is a device that converts the wind's kinetic energy into electrical energy.

For engineering purposes, the wind gradient is modeled as a simple shear exhibiting a vertical velocity profile varying according to a power law with a constant exponential coefficient based on surface type. The height above ground where surface friction has a negligible effect on wind speed is called the "gradient height" and the wind speed above this height is assumed to be a constant called the "gradient wind speed". [10] [15] [16] For example, typical values for the predicted gradient height are 457 m for large cities, 366 m for suburbs, 274 m for open terrain, and 213 m for open sea. [17]

Engineering applied science

Engineering is the application of knowledge in the form of science, mathematics, and empirical evidence, to the innovation, design, construction, operation and maintenance of structures, machines, materials, software, devices, systems, processes, and organizations. The discipline of engineering encompasses a broad range of more specialized fields of engineering, each with a more specific emphasis on particular areas of applied mathematics, applied science, and types of application. See glossary of engineering.

Simple shear

Simple shear is a deformation in which parallel planes in a material remain parallel and maintain a constant distance, while translating relative to each other.

Power law mathematical relationship between two quantities

In statistics, a power law is a functional relationship between two quantities, where a relative change in one quantity results in a proportional relative change in the other quantity, independent of the initial size of those quantities: one quantity varies as a power of another. For instance, considering the area of a square in terms of the length of its side, if the length is doubled, the area is multiplied by a factor of four.

Although the power law exponent approximation is convenient, it has no theoretical basis. [18] When the temperature profile is adiabatic, the wind speed should vary logarithmically with height. [19] Measurements over open terrain in 1961 showed good agreement with the logarithmic fit up to 100 m or so (within the surface layer), with near constant average wind speed up through 1000 m. [20]

Logarithm Inverse function of exponentiation that also maps products to sums

In mathematics, the logarithm is the inverse function to exponentiation (it is an example of a concave function). That means the logarithm of a given number x is the exponent to which another fixed number, the base b, must be raised, to produce that number x. In the simplest case, the logarithm counts repeated multiplication of the same factor; e.g., since 1000 = 10 × 10 × 10 = 103, the "logarithm to base 10" of 1000 is 3. The logarithm of x to baseb is denoted as logb (x) (or, without parentheses, as logbx, or even without explicit base as log x, when no confusion is possible). More generally, exponentiation allows any positive real number to be raised to any real power, always producing a positive result, so the logarithm for any two positive real numbers b and x where b is not equal to 1, is always a unique real number y. More explicitly, the defining relation between exponentiation and logarithm is:

The log wind profile is a semi-empirical relationship commonly used to describe the vertical distribution of horizontal mean wind speeds within the lowest portion of the planetary boundary layer. The relationship is well described in the literature.

The shearing of the wind is usually three-dimensional, [21] that is, there is also a change in direction between the 'free' pressure-driven geostrophic wind and the wind close to the ground. [22] This is related to the Ekman spiral effect. The cross-isobar angle of the diverted ageostrophic flow near the surface ranges from 10° over open water, to 30° over rough hilly terrain, and can increase to 40°-50° over land at night when the wind speed is very low. [12]

Shearing in continuum mechanics refers to the occurrence of a shear strain, which is a deformation of a material substance in which parallel internal surfaces slide past one another. It is induced by a shear stress in the material. Shear strain is distinguished from volumetric strain, the change in a material's volume in response to stress.

Ekman spiral A structure of currents or winds near a horizontal boundary in which the flow direction rotates as one moves away from the boundary

The Ekman spiral is a structure of currents or winds near a horizontal boundary in which the flow direction rotates as one moves away from the boundary. It derives its name from the Swedish oceanographer Vagn Walfrid Ekman. The deflection of surface currents was first noticed by the Norwegian oceanographer Fridtjof Nansen during the Fram expedition (1893–1896) and the effect was first physically explained by Vagn Walfrid Ekman.

After sundown the wind gradient near the surface increases, with the increasing stability. [23] Atmospheric stability occurring at night with radiative cooling tends to contain turbulent eddies vertically, increasing the wind gradient. [8] The magnitude of the wind gradient is largely influenced by the weather, principally atmospheric stability and the height of any convective boundary layer or Capping inversion. This effect is even larger over the sea, where there is no diurnal variation of the height of the boundary layer as there is over land. [24] In the convective boundary layer, strong mixing diminishes vertical wind gradient. [25]

Constituent layers

A shelf cloud at the leading edge of a thunderstorm complex on the South Side of Chicago that extends from the Hyde Park community area to over the Regents Park twin towers and out over Lake Michigan 20120629 atmospheric thermocline.JPG
A shelf cloud at the leading edge of a thunderstorm complex on the South Side of Chicago that extends from the Hyde Park community area to over the Regents Park twin towers and out over Lake Michigan

As Navier–Stokes equations suggest, the planetary boundary layer turbulence is produced in the layer with the largest velocity gradients that is at the very surface proximity. This layer – conventionally called a surface layer – constitutes about 10% of the total PBL depth. Above the surface layer the PBL turbulence gradually dissipates, losing its kinetic energy to friction as well as converting the kinetic to potential energy in a density stratified flow. The balance between the rate of the turbulent kinetic energy production and its dissipation determines the planetary boundary layer depth. The PBL depth varies broadly. At a given wind speed, e.g. 8 m/s, and so at a given rate of the turbulence production, a PBL in wintertime Arctic could be as shallow as 50 m, a nocturnal PBL in mid-latitudes could be typically 300 m in thickness, and a tropical PBL in the trade-wind zone could grow to its full theoretical depth of 2000 m.

In addition to the surface layer, the planetary boundary layer also comprises the PBL core (between 0.1 and 0.7 of the PBL depth) and the PBL top or entrainment layer or capping inversion layer (between 0.7 and 1 of the PBL depth). Four main external factors determine the PBL depth and its mean vertical structure:

  1. the free atmosphere wind speed;
  2. the surface heat (more exactly buoyancy) balance;
  3. the free atmosphere density stratification;
  4. the free atmosphere vertical wind shear or baroclinicity.

Principal types

Atmospheric boundary layer.svg

Convective planetary boundary layer (CBL)

The CBL is a PBL when positive buoyancy flux at the surface creates a thermal instability and thus generates additional or even major turbulence, (also known as having CAPE or Convective available potential energy); see Atmospheric convection. A CBL is typical in tropical and mid-latitudes during daytime. Solar heating assisted by the heat released from the water vapor condensation could create so strong convective turbulence that the Free convective layer comprises the entire troposphere up to the tropopause (the boundary in the Earth's atmosphere between the troposphere and the stratosphere), which is at 10 km to 18 km in the Intertropical convergence zone.

Stably stratified planetary boundary layer (SBL)

The SBL is a PBL when negative buoyancy flux at the surface damps the turbulence; see Convective inhibition. An SBL is solely driven by the wind shear turbulence and hence the SBL cannot exist without the free atmosphere wind. An SBL is typical in nighttime at all locations and even in daytime in places where the Earth's surface is colder than the air above. An SBL plays a particularly important role in high latitudes where it is often prolonged (days to months), resulting in very cold air temperatures.

Physical laws and equations of motions, which govern the planetary boundary layer dynamics and microphysics, are strongly non-linear and considerably influenced by properties of the Earth's surface and evolution of the processes in the free atmosphere. To deal with this complicity, the whole array of turbulence modelling has been proposed. However, they are often not accurate enough to meet practical requests. Significant improvements are expected from application of a large eddy simulation technique to problems related to the PBL.

Perhaps the most important processes, which are critically dependent on the correct representation of the PBL in the atmospheric models (Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project), are turbulent transport of moisture (evapotranspiration) and pollutants (air pollutants). Clouds in the boundary layer influence trade winds, the hydrological cycle, and energy exchange.

See also

Related Research Articles

The tropopause is the boundary in the Earth's atmosphere between the troposphere and the stratosphere. It is a thermodynamic gradient stratification layer, marking the end of troposphere. It lies, on average, at 17 kilometres (11 mi) above equatorial regions, and above 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) over the polar regions.

Wind shear

Wind shear, sometimes referred to as wind gradient, is a difference in wind speed or direction over a relatively short distance in the atmosphere. Atmospheric wind shear is normally described as either vertical or horizontal wind shear. Vertical wind shear is a change in wind speed or direction with change in altitude. Horizontal wind shear is a change in wind speed with change in lateral position for a given altitude.

In common usage, wind gradient, more specifically wind speed gradient or wind velocity gradient, or alternatively shear wind, is the vertical gradient of the mean horizontal wind speed in the lower atmosphere. It is the rate of increase of wind strength with unit increase in height above ground level. In metric units, it is often measured in units of meters per second of speed, per kilometer of height (m/s/km), which reduces to the standard unit of shear rate, inverse seconds (s−1).

Thermal wind

The thermal wind is the variation in strength of wind with height due to, on one hand, a balance between the Coriolis and pressure-gradient forces in the atmosphere and, on the other hand, horizontal temperature gradients. It is the primary physical mechanism for the jet stream and plays an important role in other large-scale atmospheric phenomena. The thermal wind ensures the jet stream is typically strongest in the upper half of the troposphere, which is the atmospheric layer extending from the surface of the planet up to a height of 12 km to 15 km.

This is a list of meteorology topics. The terms relate to meteorology, the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere that focuses on weather processes and forecasting.

In atmospheric science, the pressure gradient is a physical quantity that describes in which direction and at what rate the pressure increases the most rapidly around a particular location. The pressure gradient is a dimensional quantity expressed in units of Pa/m

In fluid dynamics, the von Kármán constant, named for Theodore von Kármán, is a dimensionless constant involved in the logarithmic law describing the distribution of the longitudinal velocity in the wall-normal direction of a turbulent fluid flow near a boundary with a no-slip condition. The equation for such boundary layer flow profiles is:

Wind engineering is a subsets of mechanical engineering, structural engineering, meteorology, and applied physics to analyze the effects of wind in the natural and the built environment and studies the possible damage, inconvenience or benefits which may result from wind. In the field of engineering it includes strong winds, which may cause discomfort, as well as extreme winds, such as in a tornado, hurricane or heavy storm, which may cause widespread destruction. In the fields of wind energy and air pollution it also includes low and moderate winds as these are relevant to electricity production resp. dispersion of contaminants.

Horizontal convective rolls

Horizontal convective rolls, also known as horizontal roll vortices or cloud streets, are long rolls of counter-rotating air that are oriented approximately parallel to the ground in the planetary boundary layer. Although horizontal convective rolls, also known as cloud streets, have been clearly seen in satellite photographs for the last 30 years, their development is poorly understood, due to a lack of observational data. From the ground, they appear as rows of cumulus or cumulus-type clouds aligned parallel to the low-level wind. Research has shown these eddies to be significant to the vertical transport of momentum, heat, moisture, and air pollutants within the boundary layer. Cloud streets are usually more or less straight; rarely, cloud streets assume paisley patterns when the wind driving the clouds encounters an obstacle. Those cloud formations are known as von Kármán vortex streets.

Atmospheric convection

Atmospheric convection is the result of a parcel-environment instability, or temperature difference layer in the atmosphere. Different lapse rates within dry and moist air masses lead to instability. Mixing of air during the day which expands the height of the planetary boundary layer leads to increased winds, cumulus cloud development, and decreased surface dew points. Moist convection leads to thunderstorm development, which is often responsible for severe weather throughout the world. Special threats from thunderstorms include hail, downbursts, and tornadoes.

Ocean dynamics define and describe the motion of water within the oceans. Ocean temperature and motion fields can be separated into three distinct layers: mixed (surface) layer, upper ocean, and deep ocean.

Representations of the atmospheric boundary layer in global climate models play a role in simulations of past, present, and future climates. Representing the atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) within global climate models (GCMs) are difficult due to differences in surface type, scale mismatch between physical processes affecting the ABL and scales at which GCMs are run, and difficulties in measuring different physical processes within the ABL. Various parameterization techniques described below attempt to address the difficulty in ABL representations within GCMs.

The convective planetary boundary layer (CPBL), also known as the daytime planetary boundary layer, is the part of the atmosphere most directly affected by solar heating of the earth's surface.

Remote sensing of the planetary boundary layer refers to the utilization of ground-based, flight-based, or satellite-based remote sensing instruments to measure properties of the planetary boundary layer including boundary layer height, aerosols and clouds. Satellite remote sensing of the atmosphere has the advantage of being able to provide global coverage of atmospheric planetary boundary layer properties while simultaneously providing relatively high temporal sampling rates. Advancements in satellite remote sensing have provided greater vertical resolution which enables higher accuracy for planetary boundary layer measurements.

Alpine planetary boundary layer

Due to its high spatial and temporal variability, the planetary boundary layer (PBL) behavior over a mountainous terrain is more complex than over a flat terrain. The fast changing local wind system directly linked to topography and the variable land cover that goes from snow to vegetation have a significant effect on the growth of the PBL and make it much harder to predict. Understanding the processes inducing changes in the mountain PBL have critical applications for predicting air pollution transport, fire weather and local intense thunderstorm events. While some processes, such as mountain waves, have been well studied in the mountain PBL due to their importance for aviation, most of the behaviors of the alpine PBL are relatively unknown.

Atmospheric lidar is a class of instruments that uses laser light to study atmospheric properties from the ground up to the top of the atmosphere. Such instruments have been used to study, among other, atmospheric gases, aerosols, clouds, and temperature.

Glossary of meteorology Wikimedia list article

This glossary of meteorology is a list of terms and concepts relevant to meteorology and the atmospheric sciences, their sub-disciplines, and related fields.


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