Boundary-Layer Meteorology

, Volume 107, Issue 1, pp 1-48

First online:

A Re-Evaluation of Long-Term Flux Measurement Techniques Part I: Averaging and Coordinate Rotation

  • J. J. FinniganAffiliated withCSIRO Atmospheric Research
  • , R. ClementAffiliated withInstitute of Ecology and Resource Management, University of Edinburgh
  • , Y. MalhiAffiliated withInstitute of Ecology and Resource Management, University of Edinburgh
  • , R. LeuningAffiliated withCSIRO Atmospheric Research
  • , H.A. CleughAffiliated withCSIRO Atmospheric Research

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Experience of long term flux measurements over tall canopiesduring the last two decades has revealed that the eddy flux of sensible plus latentheat is typically 30% smaller than the available radiant energy flux. This failureto close the energy balance is less common close to the surface over short roughnessbut is still sometimes seen, especially in complex topography. These observationscast doubt on the results obtained from long term flux studies where daily and annualnet ecosystem exchange is usually the small difference between large positive andnegative fluxes over 24 h. In this paper we investigate this problem by examiningsome fundamental assumptions entailed in analysis of surface exchange by the eddyflux method.

In particular, we clarify the form and use of the scalar conservation equation thatunderlies this analysis and we examine the links between averaging period androtation of coordinates in the situation where coordinates are aligned with thewind vector. We show that rotating coordinates so that the x axis is alignedwith the mean wind vector has the effect of high pass filtering the scalar covariance,¯wc, such that contributions to the aerodynamic flux from atmosphericmotions with periods longer than the averaging period are lost while those of shorterperiod are distorted.

We compare the effect of computing surface exchange by averaging many shortperiods, in each of which the coordinates are rotated so that the mean verticalvelocity is zero (the method currently adopted in most long-term flux studies),with analysis in long-term coordinates and show a systematic underestimationof surface exchange in the former case. This is illustrated with data from threelong-term forest field sites where underestimations of sensible and latent heatfluxes of 10–15% averaged over many days are seen.Crucial factors determining the loss of flux are the averaging period T, themeasurement height and the content of the scalar cospectrum at periods longerthan T. The properties of this cospectrum over tall canopies in both homogeneousand complex terrain are illustrated by measurements at our three sites and we see thatover tall canopies on flat ground in convectiveconditions, or on hilly sites in near neutralflow, the scalar cospectra have much more low frequency contentthan classical surface-layerspectral forms would predict. We believe that the filtering of this low frequencycovariance by the averaging-rotation operations in common use is a large contributoryfactor to the failure to close the energy balance over tall canopies.

Atmospheric surface layer Eddy covariance Flux measurement Plant canopies Turbulent flux