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Title: Identification of Convective Boundary Layer Depth over the Great Lakes Region Using Aircraft Observations: A Comparison of Various Methods

This study evaluates the methods of identifying the heightziof the top of the convective boundary layer (CBL) during winter (December and January) over the Great Lakes and nearby land areas using observations taken by the University of Wyoming King Air research aircraft during the Lake-Induced Convection Experiment (1997/98) and Ontario Winter Lake-effect Systems (2013/14) field campaigns. Since CBLs facilitate vertical mixing near the surface, the most direct measurement ofziis that above which the vertical velocity turbulent fluctuations are weak or absent. Thus, we usezifrom the turbulence method as the “reference value” to whichzifrom other methods, based on bulk Richardson number (Rib), liquid water content, and vertical gradients of potential temperature, relative humidity, and water vapor mixing ratio, are compared. The potential temperature gradient method using a threshold value of 0.015 K m−1for soundings over land and 0.011 K m−1for soundings over lake provided the estimates ofzithat are most consistent with the turbulence method. The Ribthreshold-based method, commonly used in numerical simulation studies, underestimatedzi. Analyzing the methods’ performance on the averaging windowzavgwe recommend usingzavg= 20 or 50 m forziestimations for lake-effect boundary layers. The present dataset consists of both cloudy and cloud-free boundary layers, some having decoupled boundary layers above the inversion top. Because cases of decoupled boundary layers appear to be formed by nearby synoptic storms, we recommend use of the more general term, elevated mixed layers.

Significance Statement

The depthziof the convective atmospheric boundary layer (CBL) strongly influences precipitation rates during lake-effect snowstorms (LES). However, variousziapproximation methods produce significantly different results. This study utilizes extensive concurrently collected observations by project aircraft during two LES field studies [Lake-Induced Convection Experiment (Lake-ICE) and OWLeS] to assess howzifrom common estimation methods compare with “reference”ziderived from turbulent fluctuations, a direct measure of CBL mixing. For soundings taken both over land and lake; with cloudy or cloud-free conditions, potential temperature gradient (PTG) methods provided the best agreement with the referencezi. A method commonly employed in numerical simulations performed relatively poorly. Interestingly, the PTG method worked equally well for “coupled” and elevated decoupled CBLs, commonly associated with nearby cyclones.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
Publisher / Repository:
American Meteorological Society
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
Medium: X Size: p. 401-423
["p. 401-423"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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