Boundary layer evolution over the central Himalayas from radio wind profiler and model simulations
Abstract. We investigate the time evolution of the Local Boundary Layer (LBL) for the first time over a mountain ridge at Nainital (79.5° E, 29.4° N, 1958 m a.m.s.l.) in the central Himalayan region, using a radar wind profiler (RWP) during November 2011 to March 2012, as a part of the Ganges Valley Aerosol Experiment (GVAX). We restrict our analysis to clear–sunny days, resulting in a total of 78 days of observations. The standard criterion of the peak in the signal-to-noise ratio (S ∕ N) profile was found to be inadequate in the characterization of mixed layer (ML) top at this site. Therefore, we implemented a criterion of S ∕ N > 6 dB for the characterization of the ML and the resulting estimations are shown to be in agreement with radiosonde measurements over this site. The daytime average (05:00–10:00 UTC) observed boundary layer height ranges from 440 ± 197 m in November (late autumn) to 766 ± 317 m above ground level (a.g.l.) in March (early spring). The observations revealed a pronounced impact of mountain topography on the LBL dynamics during March, when strong winds (> 5.6 m s−1) lead to LBL heights of 650 m during nighttime. The measurements are further utilized to evaluate simulations from the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model. WRF simulations captured the day-to-day variations up to an extent (r2 = 0.5), as well as the mean diurnal variations (within 1σ variability). The mean biases in the daytime average LBL height vary from −7 % (January) to +30 % (February) between model and observations, except during March (+76 %). Sensitivity simulations using a mixed layer model (MXL/MESSy) indicated that the springtime overestimation of LBL would lead to a minor uncertainty in simulated surface ozone concentrations. However, it would lead to a significant overestimation of the dilution of black carbon aerosols at this site. Our work fills a gap in observations of local boundary layer over this complex terrain in the Himalayas, and highlights the need for year-long simultaneous measurements of boundary layer dynamics and air quality to better understand the role of lower tropospheric dynamics in pollution transport.