, Volume 116, Issue 2, pp 201-235

Stable Boundary-Layer Scaling Regimes: The Sheba Data

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Turbulent and mean meteorological data collected at five levels on a 20-m tower over the Arctic pack ice during the Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic Ocean experiment (SHEBA) are analyzed to examine different regimes of the stable boundary layer (SBL). Eleven months of measurements during SHEBA cover a wide range of stability conditions, from the weakly unstable regime to very stable stratification. Scaling arguments and our analysis show that the SBL can be classified into four major regimes: (i) surface-layer scaling regime (weakly stable case), (ii) transition regime, (iii) turbulent Ekman layer, and (iv) intermittently turbulent Ekman layer (supercritical stable regime). These four regimes may be considered as the basic states of the traditional SBL. Sometimes these regimes, especially the last two, can be markedly perturbed by gravity waves, detached elevated turbulence (‘upside down SBL’), and inertial oscillations. Traditional Monin–Obukhov similarity theory works well in the weakly stable regime. In the transition regime, Businger–Dyer formulations work if scaling variables are re-defined in terms of local fluxes, although stability function estimates expressed in these terms include more scatter compared to the surface-layer scaling. As stability increases, the near-surface turbulence is affected by the turning effects of the Coriolis force (the turbulent Ekman layer). In this regime, the surface layer, where the turbulence is continuous, may be very shallow (< 5 m). Turbulent transfer near the critical Richardson number is characterized by small but still significant heat flux and negligible stress. The supercritical stable regime, where the Richardson number exceeds a critical value, is associated with collapsed turbulence and the strong influence of the earth’s rotation even near the surface. In the limit of very strong stability, the stress is no longer a primary scaling parameter.