The turbulent structure and diurnal growth of the Saharan atmospheric boundary layer

L. Garcia-Carreras, D. J. Parker, J. H. Marsham, P. D. Rosenberg, I. M. Brooks, A. P. Lock, F. Marenco, J. B. Mcquaid, M. Hobby

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    The turbulent structure and growth of the remote Saharan atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) is described with in situ radiosonde and aircraft measurements and a large-eddy simulation model. A month of radiosonde data from June 2011 provides a mean profile of the midday Saharan ABL, which is characterized by a well-mixed convective boundary layer, capped by a small temperature inversion (<1K) and a deep, near-neutral residual layer. The boundary layer depth varies by up to 100% over horizontal distances of a few kilometers due to turbulent processes alone. The distinctive vertical structure also leads to unique boundary layer processes, such as detrainment of the warmest plumes across the weak temperature inversion, which slows down the warming and growth of the convective boundary layer. As the boundary layer grows, overshooting plumes can also entrain freetropospheric air into the residual layer, forming a second entrainment zone that acts to maintain the inversion above the convective boundary layer, thus slowing down boundary layer growth further.Asingle-column model is unable to accurately reproduce the evolution of the Saharan boundary layer, highlighting the difficulty of representing such processes in large-scale models. These boundary layer processes are special to the Sahara, and possibly hot, dry, desert environments in general, and have implications for the large-scale structure of the Saharan heat low. The growth of the boundary layer influences the vertical redistribution of moisture and dust, and the spatial coverage and duration of clouds, with large-scale dynamical and radiative implications.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)693-713
    Number of pages21
    JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
    Volume72
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

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