Theoretical and Applied Climatology

, Volume 102, Issue 3–4, pp 307–317 | Cite as

Effects of land-surface heterogeneity on numerical simulations of mesoscale atmospheric boundary layer processes

  • Ning Zhang
  • Quinton L. Williams
  • Heping LiuEmail author
Original Paper


Landscape heterogeneity that causes surface flux variability plays a very important role in triggering mesoscale atmospheric circulations and convective weather processes. In most mesoscale numerical models, however, subgrid-scale heterogeneity is somewhat smoothed or not adequately accounted for, leading to artificial changes in heterogeneity patterns (e.g., patterns of land cover, land use, terrain, and soil types and soil moisture). At the domain-wide scale, the combination of losses in subgrid-scale heterogeneity from many adjacent grids may artificially produce larger-scale, more homogeneous landscapes. Therefore, increased grid spacing in models may result in increased losses in landscape heterogeneity. Using the Weather Research and Forecasting model in this paper, we design a number of experiments to examine the effects of such artificial changes in heterogeneity patterns on numerical simulations of surface flux exchanges, near-surface meteorological fields, atmospheric planetary boundary layer (PBL) processes, mesoscale circulations, and mesoscale fluxes. Our results indicate that the increased heterogeneity losses in the model lead to substantial, nonlinear changes in temporal evaluations and spatial patterns of PBL dynamic and thermodynamic processes. The decreased heterogeneity favor developments of more organized mesoscale circulations, leading to enhanced mesoscale fluxes and, in turn, the vertical transport of heat and moisture. This effect is more pronounced in the areas with greater surface heterogeneity. Since more homogeneous land-surface characteristics are created in regional models with greater surface grid scales, these artificial mesoscale fluxes may have significant impacts on simulations of larger-scale atmospheric processes.


Planetary Boundary Layer Outgoing Longwave Radiation Specific Humidity Landscape Heterogeneity Sensible Heat 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was supported in part by NOAA through HOWARD Center for Atmospheric Sciences (NCAS) under grant number NA06OAR4810172. The content of this paper does not necessarily reflect the position or the policy of the government, and no official endorsement should be inferred. Thanks for Oklahoma Mesonet for the observation data used in this paper.


  1. Avissar R, Liu YQ (1996) Three-dimensional numerical study of shallow convective clouds and precipitation induced by land surface forcing. J Geophys Res-Atmos 101(D3):7499–7518CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baidya Roy S, Avissar R (2000) Scales of response of the convective boundary layer to land-surface heterogeneity. Geophys Res Lett 27:533–536CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baidya Roy S, Weaver CP, Nolan DS, Avissar R (2003) A preferred scale for landscape forced mesoscale circulations? J Geophys Res-Atmos 108(D22):8854. doi: 10.1029/2002JD003097 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brock FV, Crawford KC, Elliott RL, Cuperus GW, Stadler SJ, Johnson HL, Eilts MD (1995) The Oklahoma Mesonet—a technical overview. J Atmos Ocean Technol 12(1):5–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chen F, Avissar R (1994a) The impact of land-surface wetness heterogeneity on mesoscale heat fluxes. J Appl Meteorol 33(11):1323–1340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chen F, Avissar R (1994b) Impact of land-surface moisture variability on local shallow convective cumulus and precipitation in large-scale models. J Appl Meteorol 33(12):1382–1401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chen F, Yates DN, Nagai H, LeMone MA, Ikeda K, Grossman RL (2003) Land surface heterogeneity in the cooperative atmosphere surface exchange study (CASES-97). Part I: comparing modeled surface flux maps with surface-flux tower and aircraft measurements. J Hydrometeorol 4(2):196–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cutrim E, Martin DW, Rabin R (1995) Enhancement of cumulus clouds over deforested lands in Amazonia. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 76:1801–1805CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Doran JC, Shaw WJ, Hubbe JM (1995) Boundary-layer characteristics over areas of inhomogeneous surface fluxes. J Appl Meteorol 34(2):559–571CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Li B, Avissar R (1994) The impact of spatial variability of land-surface characteristics on land-surface heat fluxes. J Climate 7(4):527–537CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Mahrt L, Sun J, Vickers D, MacPherson JI, Pederson JR, Desjardins R (1994) Observations of fluxes and inland breezes over a heterogeneous surface. J Atmos Sci 51:2484–2499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Molod A, Salmun H, Waugh DW (2003) A new look at modeling surface heterogeneity: extending its influence in the vertical. J Hydrometeorol 4(5):810–825CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Physick WL, Tapper NJ (1990) A numerical study of circulations induced by a dry salt lake. Mon Weather Rev 118(5):1029–1042CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Pilke RA (2002) Mesoscale meteorological modeling. Academic Press, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  15. Rabin RM, Martin DW (1996) Satellite observations of shallow cumulus coverage over the central United States: an exploration of land use impact on cloud cover. J Geophys Res 101:7149–7155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Rabin RM, Stadler S, Wetzel PJ, Stensrud DJ, Grefory M (1990) Observed effects of landscape variability on convective clouds. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 71(3):272–280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Rife D, Warner TT, Chen F, Astling EG (2001) Mechanisms for diurnal boundary layer circulations in the Great Basin Desert. Mon Wea Rev 130:921–938CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Salmun H, Molod A (2006) Progress in modeling the impact of land cover changes on the global climate. Prog Geogr 30:737–749CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Segal M, Arritt RW (1992) Nonclassical mesoscale circulations caused by surface sensible heat-flux gradients. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 73(10):1593–1604CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Skamaroch WC, Klemp JB, Dudhia J, Gill DO, Barker DM, Wang W, Powers JG (2005) A description of the advanced research WRF version 2. NCAR Technical Note. NCAR, BoulderGoogle Scholar
  21. Wang J, Bras R, Eltahir EAB (2000) The impact of observed deforestation on the mesoscale distribution of rainfall and clouds in Amazonia. J Hydrometeorol 1(3):267–286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Weaver CP (2004a) Coupling between large-scale atmospheric processes and mesoscale land-atmosphere interactions in the US Southern Great Plains during summer. Part II: mean impacts of the mesoscale. J Hydrometeorol 5(6):1247–1258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Weaver CP (2004b) Coupling between large-scale atmospheric processes and mesoscale land-atmosphere interactions in the US Southern Great Plains during summer. Part I: case studies. J Hydrometeorol 5(6):1223–1246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Weaver CP, Avissar R (2001) Atmospheric disturbances caused by human modification of the landscape. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 82(2):269–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Weaver CP, Baidya Roy S, Avissar R (2002) Sensitivity of simulated mesoscale atmospheric circulations resulting from landscape heterogeneity to aspects of model configuration. J Geophys Res - Atmos 107:8041CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Yates DN, Chen F, Nagai H (2003) Land surface heterogeneity in the cooperative atmosphere surface exchange study (CASES-97). Part II: analysis of spatial heterogeneity and its scaling. J Hydrometeorol 4(2):219–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Zhang N, Liu HP (2007) Effects of land surface heterogeneity on numerical simulations of mesoscale atmospheric boundary layer processes. In: The 21st Conference on Hydrology, The 87th Annual Meeting, American Meteorological Society, 14–18 January 2007, San Antonio, TX, USAGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physics, Atmospheric Sciences, and GeoscienceJackson State UniversityJacksonUSA

Personalised recommendations