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Large eddy simulations of the atmospheric boundary layer east of the Colorado Rockies




Costigan, Keeley R., author

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Large eddy simulation, LES, has often been carried out for the idealized situation of a simple convective boundary layer. Studies of dual Doppler radar and aircraft data from the Phoenix II experiment indicate that the boundary layer of the Colorado High Plains is not a purely convective boundary layer and it is influenced by the mountains to the west. The purpose- of this study is to investigate the atmospheric boundary layer on one particular day on the Colorado High Plains. This research applies a LES nested within larger grids, which contain realistic topography and can simulate the larger-scale circulations initiated by the presence of the mountain barrier. How and to what extent the atmospheric boundary layer of the Colorado High Plains is influenced by larger scale circulations and other phenomena associated with the mountain barrier to the west is investigated. Comparison of the model produced fields and turbulence statistics to the observations of the Phoenix II experiment shows that the nested grid LES reproduces the characteristics of the atmosphere for the case study day reasonably well. Further comparison of the model results to other LES for a purely convective, horizontally homogeneous boundary layer indicates that the mountains influence the atmospheric boundary layer over the plains to the east in several ways. The mountains contribute to the vertical shear of the horizontal winds through the thermally-induced mountain-plains circulation. As a consequence of the wind shear, the boundary layer that develops over the mountains is advected eastward over the top of the plains boundary layer, which is developing separately. This layer is marked by a mixture of gravity waves and turbulence and is atypical of a purely convective boundary layer. Just below this layer, the capping inversion of the plains boundary layer is weak and poorly defined compared to the inversions capping purely convective boundary layers. Gravity waves, triggered by the obstacle of the Rocky Mountains and by convection in the mountain boundary layer, also influence the atmosphere above the Colorado High Plains. These influences are found to have significant effects on the turbulence statistics and the energy spectra.


October 22, 1992.
Also issued as author's dissertation (Ph.D.) -- Colorado State University, 1992.

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Boundary layer (Meteorology)
Eddy flux


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