A CASE STUDY ON THE EFFECTS OF HETEROGENEOUS SOIL MOISTURE ON MESOSCALE BOUNDARY-LAYER STRUCTURE IN THE SOUTHERN GREAT PLAINS, U.S.A. PART I: SIMPLE PROGNOSTIC MODEL

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Abstract

The atmospheric boundary-layer (ABL) depth was observed by airborne lidar and balloon soundings during the Southern Great Plains 1997 field study (SGP97). This paper is Part I of a two-part case study examining the relationship of surface heterogeneity to observed ABL structure. Part I focuses on observations. During two days (12–13 July 1997) following rain, midday convective ABL depth varied by as much as 1.5 km across 400 km, even with moderate winds. Variability in ABL depth was driven primarily by the spatial variation in surface buoyancy flux as measured from short towers and aircraft within the SGP97 domain. Strong correlation was found between time-integrated buoyancy flux and airborne remotely sensed surface soil moisture for the two case-study days, but only a weak correlation was found between surface energy fluxes and vegetation greenness as measured by satellite. A simple prognostic one-dimensional ABL model was applied to test to what extent the soil moisture spatial heterogeneity explained the variation in north-south ABL depth across the SGP97 domain. The model was able to better predict mean ABL depth and variations on horizontal scales of approximately 100 km using observed soil moisture instead of constant soil moisture. Subsidence, advection, convergence/divergence and spatial variability of temperature inversion strength also contributed to ABL depth variations. In Part II, assimilation of high-resolution soil moisture into a three-dimensional mesoscale model (MM5) is discussed and shown to improve predictions of ABL structure. These results have implications for ABL models and the influence of soil moisture on mesoscale meteorology

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