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Journal Article

Time scales of the trade wind boundary layer adjustment


Stevens,  Bjoern       
Director’s Research Group AES, The Atmosphere in the Earth System, MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society;

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Bellon, G., & Stevens, B. (2013). Time scales of the trade wind boundary layer adjustment. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 70, 1071-1083. doi:10.1175/jas-d-12-0219.1.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-FA4A-1
The adjustment of the trade wind atmospheric boundary layer to an abrupt sea surface warming is investigated using a large-eddy simulation (LES) and two simple bulk models: a mixed-layer model (MLM), and a model based on the mixing-line hypothesis (XLM). The near-surface temperature adjusts in a few hours, faster than can be expected from the characteristic time scales associated with the physical processes at play. The near-surface humidity adjusts more slowly, with a time scale of about a day, and it exhibits an initial decrease before increasing to its equilibrium value. An analysis of the MLM suggests that the initial tendency of humidity and temperature results from the difference in Bowen ratios between the equilibrium and the perturbation. An analysis of the three linear modes of the XLM shows that the fastest-decaying mode adjusts the subcloud-layer buoyancy, with a constructive interaction of all of the physical processes. The second-fastest-decaying mode is an adjustment of the boundary layer thermodynamical structure and the slowest mode adjusts the boundary layer depth. Approximate analytical expressions of the time scales characterizing these linear modes are derived both for the MLM and the XLM. The MLM exhibits no scale separation between the fastest and second-fastest time scales and a scale separation between these and the slowest time scale only in the case of a shallow well-mixed boundary layer. The XLM exhibits a scale separation between the buoyancy adjustment of the subcloud layer and the overall thermodynamic adjustment, while conserving the scale separation with the slower adjustment of the boundary layer depth.