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Title: Bulk mixing and decoupling of the nocturnal boundary layer characterised using a ubiquitous natural tracer
Authors: Williams, AG
Chambers, SD
Griffiths, AD
Keywords: Decoupling
Gravity waves
Issue Date: 1-Dec-2013
Publisher: Springer
Citation: Williams, A. G., Chambers, S., Griffiths, A. (2013). Bulk mixing and decoupling of the nocturnal boundary layer characterised using a ubiquitous natural tracer. Boundary-Layer Meteorology. 149 (3), 381-402. doi:10.1007/s10546-013-9849-3
Abstract: Vertical mixing of the nocturnal stable boundary layer (SBL) over a complex land surface is investigated for a range of stabilities, using a decoupling index () based on the 2-50 m bulk gradient of the ubiquitous natural trace gas radon-222. The relationship between and the bulk Richardson number () exhibits three broad regions: (1) a well-mixed region () in weakly stable conditions (); (2) a steeply increasing region () for "transitional" stabilities (); and (3) a decoupled region (-1.0) in very stable conditions (). exhibits a large variability within individual bins, however, due to a range of competing processes influencing bulk mixing under different conditions. To explore these processes in - space, we perform a bivariate analysis of the bulk thermodynamic gradients, various indicators of external influences, and key turbulence quantities at 10 and 50 m. Strong and consistent patterns are found, and five distinct regions in - space are identified and associated with archetypal stable boundary-layer regimes. Results demonstrate that the introduction of a scalar decoupling index yields valuable information about turbulent mixing in the SBL that cannot be gained directly from a single bulk thermodynamic stability parameter. A significant part of the high variability observed in turbulence statistics during very stable conditions is attributable to changes in the degree of decoupling of the SBL from the residual layer above. When examined in - space, it is seen that very different turbulence regimes can occur for the same value of , depending on the particular combination of values for the bulk temperature gradient and wind shear, together with external factors. Extremely low turbulent variances and fluxes are found at 50 m height when and (fully decoupled). These "quiescent" cases tend to occur when geostrophic forcing is very weak and subsidence is present, but are not associated with the largest bulk temperature gradients. Humidity and net radiation data indicate the presence of low cloud, patchy fog or dew, any of which may aid decoupling in these cases by preventing temperature gradients from increasing sufficiently to favour gravity wave activity. The largest temperature gradients in our dataset are actually associated with smaller values of the decoupling index (), indicating the presence of mixing. Strong evidence is seen from enhanced turbulence levels, fluxes and submeso activity at 50 m, as well as high temperature variances and heat flux intermittencies at 10 m, suggesting this region of the - distribution can be identified as a top-down mixing regime. This may indicate an important role for gravity waves and other wave-like phenomena in providing the energy required for sporadic mixing at this complex terrain site. © 2013, Springer.
Gov't Doc #: 5310
ISSN: 0006-8314
Appears in Collections:Journal Articles

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