, Volume 47, Issue 1-4, pp 17-40

The structure of the stably stratified internal boundary layer in offshore flow over the sea

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Abstract

Observations obtained mainly from a research aircraft are presented of the mean and turbulent structure of the stably stratified internal boundary layer (IBL) over the sea formed by warm air advection from land to sea. The potential temperature and humidity fields reveal the vertical extent of the IBL, for fetches out to several hundred of kilometres, geostrophic winds of 20–25 m s−1, and potential temperature differences between undisturbed continental air and the sea surface of 7 to 17 K. The dependence of IBL depth on these external parameters is discussed in the context of the numerical results of Garratt (1987), and some discrepancies are noted.

Wind observations show the development of a low-level wind maximum (wind component normal to the coast) and rotation of the wind to smaller cross-isobar flow angles. Potential temperature (θ) profiles within the IBL reveal quite a different structure to that found in the nocturnal boundary layer (NBL) over land. Over the sea, θ profiles have large positive curvature with vertical gradients increasing monotonically with height; this reflects the dominance of turbulent cooling within the layer. The behaviour is consistent with known behaviour in the NBL over land where curvature becomes negative (vertical gradients of θ decreasing with height) as radiative cooling becomes dominant.

Turbulent properties are discussed in terms of non-dimensional quantities, normalised by the surface friction velocity, as functions of normalised height using the IBL depth. Vertical profiles of these and the normalised wavelength of the spectral maximum agree well with known results for the stable boundary layer over land (Caughey et al., 1979).