Boundary-Layer Meteorology

, Volume 67, Issue 3, pp 293–318

Source areas for scalars and scalar fluxes

  • H. P. Schmid

DOI: 10.1007/BF00713146

Cite this article as:
Schmid, H.P. Boundary-Layer Meteorol (1994) 67: 293. doi:10.1007/BF00713146


The spatial resolution of meteorological observations of scalars (such as concentrations or temperature) and scalar fluxes (e.g., water-vapour flux, sensible heat flux) above inhomogeneous surfaces is in general not known. It is determined by the surface area of influence orsource area of the sensor, which for sensors of quantities that are subject to turbulent diffusion, depends on the flow and turbulence conditions.

Functions describing the relationship between the spatial distribution of surface sources (or sinks) and a measured signal at height in the surface layer have been termed thefootprint function or thesource weight function. In this paper, the source area of levelP is defined as the integral of the source weight function over the smallest possible domain comprising the fractionP of the total surface influence reflected in the measured signal. Source area models for scalar concentration and for passive scalar fluxes are presented. The results of the models are presented as characteristic dimensions of theP=50% source areas (i.e., the area responsible for 50% of the surface influence): the maximum source location (i.e., the upwind distance of the surface element with the maximum-weight influence), the near and the far end of the source area, and its maximal lateral extension. These numerical model results are related directly to non-dimensional surface-layer scaling variables by a non-linear least squares method in a parameterized model which provides a user-friendly estimate of the surface area responsible for measured concentrations or fluxes. The source area models presented here allow conclusions to be made about the spatial representativeness and the localness (these terms are defined in the text) of flux and concentration measurements.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. P. Schmid
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Climate Research, Dept. of GeographySwiss Federal Institute of TechnologyZürichSwitzerland

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