Effects of large eddies on the structure of the marine boundary layer under strong wind conditions

Document Type


Date of Original Version



A model of the atmospheric boundary layer (BL) is presented that explicitly calculates a two-way interaction of the background flow and convective motions. The model is utilized for investigation of the formation of large eddies (roll vortices) and their effects on the structure of the marine boundary layer under conditions resembling those of tropical cyclones. It is shown that two main factors controlling the formation of large eddies are the magnitude of the background wind speed and air humidity, determining the cloud formation and latent heat release. When the wind speed is high enough, a strong vertical wind shear develops in the lower part of the BL, which triggers turbulent mixing and the formation of a mixed layer. As a result, the vertical profiles of velocity, potential temperature, and mixing ratio in the background flow are modified to allow for the development of large eddies via dynamic instability. Latent heat release in clouds was found to be the major energy source of large eddies. The cloud formation depends on the magnitude of air humidity. The most important manifestation of the effects of large eddies is a significant increase of the near-surface wind speed and evaporation from the sea surface. For strong wind conditions, the increase of the near-surface speed can exceed 10 m s-1 and evaporation from the sea surface can double. These results demonstrate an important role large eddies play in the formation of BL structure in high wind speeds. Inclusion of these effects in the BL parameterizations of tropical cyclone models may potentially lead to substantial improvements in the prediction of storm intensity. © 2004 American Meteorological Society.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences