Elastic-backscatter-lidar-based characterization of the convective boundary layer and investigation of related statistics

S. Pal, A. Behrendt, V. Wulfmeyer

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We applied a ground-based vertically-pointing aerosol lidar to investigate the evolution of the instantaneous atmospheric boundary layer depth, its growth rate, associated entrainment processes, and turbulence characteristics. We used lidar measurements with range resolution of 3 m and time resolution of up to 0.033 s obtained in the course of a sunny day (26 June 2004) over an urban valley (central Stuttgart, 48°47' N, 9°12' E, 240 m above sea level). The lidar system uses a wavelength of 1064 nm and has a power-aperture product of 2.1 W m2. Three techniques are examined for determining the instantaneous convective boundary layer (CBL) depth from the high-resolution lidar measurements: the logarithm gradient method, the inflection point method, and the Haar wavelet transform method. The Haar wavelet-based approach is found to be the most robust technique for the automated detection of the CBL depth. Two different regimes of the CBL are discussed in detail: a quasi-stationary CBL in the afternoon and a CBL with rapid growth during morning transition in the presence of dust layers atop. Two different growth rates were found: 3-5 m/min for the growing CBL in the morning and 0.5-2 m/min during the quasi-steady regime. The mean entrainment zone thickness for the quasi-steady CBL was found to be ∼75 m while the CBL top during the entire day varied between 0.7 km and 2.3 km. A fast Fourier-transform-based spectral analysis of the instantaneous CBL depth time series gave a spectral exponent value of 1.50±0.04, confirming non-stationary CBL behavior in the morning while for the other regime a value of 1.00±0.06 was obtained indicating a quasi-stationary state of the CBL. Assuming that the spatio-temporal variation of the particle backscatter cross-section of the aerosols in the scattering volume is due to number density fluctuations (negligible hygroscopic growth), the particle backscatter coefficient profiles can be used to investigate boundary layer turbulence since the aerosols act as tracers. We demonstrate that with our lidar measurements, vertical profiles of variance, skewness, and kurtosis of the fluctuations of the particle backscatter coefficient can be determined. The variance spectra at different altitudes inside the quasi-steady CBL showed an f-5/3 dependency. The integral scale varied from 40 to 90 s (depending on height), which was significantly larger than the temporal resolution of the lidar data. Thus, the major part of the inertial subrange was detected and turbulent fluctuations could be resolved. For the quasi-stationary case, negative values of skewness were found inside the CBL while positive values were observed in the entrainment zone near the top of the CBL. For the case of the rapidly growing CBL, the skewness profile showed both positive and negative values even inside the CBL.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)825-847
Number of pages23
JournalAnnales Geophysicae
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geology
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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