Articles | Volume 15, issue 10
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 5873–5885, 2015
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 5873–5885, 2015

Research article 27 May 2015

Research article | 27 May 2015

Turbulent structure and scaling of the inertial subrange in a stratocumulus-topped boundary layer observed by a Doppler lidar

J. Tonttila1,3, E. J. O'Connor2,4, A. Hellsten2, A. Hirsikko2,5, C. O'Dowd6, H. Järvinen3, and P. Räisänen2 J. Tonttila et al.
  • 1Finnish Meteorological Institute, Atmospheric Research Centre of Eastern Finland, P.O. Box 1627, 70211 Kuopio, Finland
  • 2Finnish Meteorological Institute, P.O. Box 503, 00101, Helsinki, Finland
  • 3University of Helsinki, Department of Physics, P.O. Box 48, 00014, Helsinki, Finland
  • 4University of Reading, Reading, UK
  • 5Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Institut für Energie-und Klimaforschung: Troposphäre (IEK-8), Jülich, Germany
  • 6School of Physics and Centre for Climate & Air Pollution Studies, Ryan Institute, National University of Ireland Galway, University Road, Galway, Ireland

Abstract. The turbulent structure of a stratocumulus-topped marine boundary layer over a 2-day period is observed with a Doppler lidar at Mace Head in Ireland. Using profiles of vertical velocity statistics, the bulk of the mixing is identified as cloud driven. This is supported by the pertinent feature of negative vertical velocity skewness in the sub-cloud layer which extends, on occasion, almost to the surface. Both coupled and decoupled turbulence characteristics are observed. The length and timescales related to the cloud-driven mixing are investigated and shown to provide additional information about the structure and the source of the mixing inside the boundary layer. They are also shown to place constraints on the length of the sampling periods used to derive products, such as the turbulent dissipation rate, from lidar measurements. For this, the maximum wavelengths that belong to the inertial subrange are studied through spectral analysis of the vertical velocity. The maximum wavelength of the inertial subrange in the cloud-driven layer scales relatively well with the corresponding layer depth during pronounced decoupled structure identified from the vertical velocity skewness. However, on many occasions, combining the analysis of the inertial subrange and vertical velocity statistics suggests higher decoupling height than expected from the skewness profiles. Our results show that investigation of the length scales related to the inertial subrange significantly complements the analysis of the vertical velocity statistics and enables a more confident interpretation of complex boundary layer structures using measurements from a Doppler lidar.

Final-revised paper