Use of Wind Profilers to Quantify Atmospheric Turbulence

  • Christopher Lee

Student thesis: Phd


Doppler radar wind profilers are already widely used to measure atmospheric winds throughout the free troposphere and stratosphere. Several methods have been developed to quantify atmospheric turbulence with such radars, but to date they have remained largely un-tested; this thesis presents the first comprehensive validation of one such method. Conventional in-situ measurements of turbulence have been concentrated in the surface layer, with some aircraft and balloon platforms measuring at higher altitudes on a case study basis. Radars offer the opportunity to measure turbulence near continuously, and at a range of altitudes, to provide the first long term observations of atmospheric turbulence above the surface layer. Two radars were used in this study, a Mesosphere-Stratosphere-Troposphere (MST) radar, at Capel Dewi, West Wales, and the Facility for Ground Based Atmospheric Measurements (FGAM) mobile boundary layer profiler. In-situ measurements were made using aircraft and tethered-balloon borne turbulence probes.The spectral width method was chosen for detailed testing, which uses the width of a radar's Doppler spectrum as a measure of atmospheric velocity variance. Broader Doppler spectra indicate stronger turbulence. To obtain Gaussian Doppler spectra (a requirement of the spectral width method), combination of between five and seven consecutive spectra was required. Individual MST spectra were particularly non-Gaussian, because of the sparse nature of turbulence at its observation altitudes. The width of Gaussian fits to the Doppler spectrum were compared to those from the `raw' spectrum, to ensure that non-atmospheric signals were not measured. Corrections for non-turbulent broadening, such as beam broadening, and signal processing, were investigated. Shear broadening was found to be small, and the errors in its calculation large, so no corrections for wind shear were applied. Beam broadening was found to be the dominant broadening contribution, and also contributed the largest uncertainty to spectral widths.Corrected spectral widths were found to correlate with aircraft measurements for both radars. Observing spectral widths over time periods of 40 and 60 minutes for the boundary layer profiler and MST radar respectively, gave the best measure of turbulence intensity and variability. Median spectral widths gave the best average over that period, with two-sigma limits (where sigma is the standard deviation of spectral widths) giving the best representation of the variability in turbulence. Turbulent kinetic energies were derived from spectral widths; typical boundary layer values were 0.13 m^2.s^(-2) with a two-sigma range of 0.04-0.25 m^2.s^(-2), and peaked at 0.21 m^2.s^(-2) with a two-sigma range of 0.08-0.61 m^2.s^(-2). Turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rates were also calculated from spectral widths, requiring radiosonde measurements of atmospheric stability. Dissipation rates compared well width aircraft measurements, reaching peaks of 1x10^(-3) m^2.s^(-3) within 200 m of the ground, and decreasing to 1-2x10^(-5) m^2.s^(-3) near the boundary layer capping inversion. Typical boundary layer values were between 1-3x10^(-4) m^2.s^(-3). Those values are in close agreement with dissipation rates from previous studies.
Date of Award31 Dec 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorGeraint Vaughan (Supervisor) & Martin Gallagher (Supervisor)


  • Aircraft Measurement
  • Tethered Balloon
  • Spectral Width
  • In-situ Measurement
  • VHF Wind Profiler
  • MST Radar
  • UHF Wind Profiler
  • Dissipation Rate
  • Free Troposphere
  • Atmospheric Boundary Layer
  • Doppler radar
  • Turbulent Kinetic Energy

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