Boundary-Layer Meteorology

, Volume 140, Issue 2, pp 243–262 | Cite as

Coherent Structures and the Dissimilarity of Turbulent Transport of Momentum and Scalars in the Unstable Atmospheric Surface Layer

  • Dan Li
  • Elie Bou-ZeidEmail author


Atmospheric stability effects on the dissimilarity between the turbulent transport of momentum and scalars (water vapour and temperature) are investigated in the neutral and unstable atmospheric surface layers over a lake and a vineyard. A decorrelation of the momentum and scalar fluxes is observed with increasing instability. Moreover, different measures of transport efficiency (correlation coefficients, efficiencies based on quadrant analysis and bulk transfer coefficients) indicate that, under close to neutral conditions, momentum and scalars are transported similarly whereas, as the instability of the atmosphere increases, scalars are transported increasingly more efficiently than momentum. This dissimilarity between the turbulent transport of momentum and scalars under unstable conditions concurs with, and is likely caused by, a change in the topology of turbulent coherent structures. Previous laboratory and field studies report that under neutral conditions hairpin vortices and hairpin packets are present and dominate the vertical fluxes, while under free-convection conditions thermal plumes are expected. Our results (cross-stream vorticity variation, quadrant analysis and time series analysis) are in very good agreement with this picture and confirm a change in the structure of the coherent turbulent motions under increasing instability, although the exact structure of these motions and how they are modified by stability requires further investigation based on three-dimensional flow data.


Coherent structures Hairpin vortices Quadrant analysis Reynolds analogy Thermal plumes Transport efficiencies 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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