Comparison of Convective Boundary Layer Velocity Spectra Retrieved from Large-Eddy-Simulation and Weather Research and Forecasting Model Data


As computing capabilities expand, operational and research environments are moving toward the use of finescale atmospheric numerical models. These models are attractive for users who seek an accurate description of small-scale turbulent motions. One such numerical tool is the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model, which has been extensively used in synoptic-scale and mesoscale studies. As finer-resolution simulations become more desirable, it remains a question whether the model features originally designed for the simulation of larger-scale atmospheric flows will translate to adequate reproductions of small-scale motions. In this study, turbulent flow in the dry atmospheric convective boundary layer (CBL) is simulated using a conventional large-eddy-simulation (LES) code and the WRF model applied in an LES mode. The two simulation configurations use almost identical numerical grids and are initialized with the same idealized vertical profiles of wind velocity, temperature, and moisture. The respective CBL forcings are set equal and held constant. The effects of the CBL wind shear and of the varying grid spacings are investigated. Horizontal slices of velocity fields are analyzed to enable a comparison of CBL flow patterns obtained with each simulation method. Two-dimensional velocity spectra are used to characterize the planar turbulence structure. One-dimensional velocity spectra are also calculated. Results show that the WRF model tends to attribute slightly more energy to larger-scale flow structures as compared with the CBL structures reproduced by the conventional LES. Consequently, the WRF model reproduces relatively less spatial variability of the velocity fields. Spectra from the WRF model also feature narrower inertial spectral subranges and indicate enhanced damping of turbulence on small scales.

Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, 53(2), 377–-394
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Dr. Jeremy A. Gibbs
Dr. Jeremy A. Gibbs
Research Meteorologist

My name is Jeremy Gibbs. I am a Research Meteorologist at the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory. My research includes computational and theoretical studies of atmospheric boundary-layer flows, turbulence modeling, land-surface modeling, parameterization of boundary-layer and surface-layer interactions, and multi-scale numerical weather prediction. I am currently working on projects to improve atmospheric models in the areas of scale-aware boundary-layer physics, heterogeneous boundary layers, and other storm-scale phenomena.