Boundary-Layer Meteorology

, Volume 150, Issue 1, pp 49–67 | Cite as

An Optimal Inverse Method Using Doppler Lidar Measurements to Estimate the Surface Sensible Heat Flux

  • T. M. Dunbar
  • J. F. Barlow
  • S. E. Belcher


Inverse methods are widely used in various fields of atmospheric science. However, such methods are not commonly used within the boundary-layer community, where robust observations of surface fluxes are a particular concern. We present a new technique for deriving surface sensible heat fluxes from boundary-layer turbulence observations using an inverse method. Doppler lidar observations of vertical velocity variance are combined with two well-known mixed-layer scaling forward models for a convective boundary layer (CBL). The inverse method is validated using large-eddy simulations of a CBL with increasing wind speed. The majority of the estimated heat fluxes agree within error with the proscribed heat flux, across all wind speeds tested. The method is then applied to Doppler lidar data from the Chilbolton Observatory, UK. Heat fluxes are compared with those from a mast-mounted sonic anemometer. Errors in estimated heat fluxes are on average 18 %, an improvement on previous techniques. However, a significant negative bias is observed (on average \(-63\,\%\)) that is more pronounced in the morning. Results are improved for the fully-developed CBL later in the day, which suggests that the bias is largely related to the choice of forward model, which is kept deliberately simple for this study. Overall, the inverse method provided reasonable flux estimates for the simple case of a CBL. Results shown here demonstrate that this method has promise in utilizing ground-based remote sensing to derive surface fluxes. Extension of the method is relatively straight-forward, and could include more complex forward models, or other measurements.


Convective boundary layer Doppler lidar Inverse methods Surface energy balance 



The authors wish to thank Alan Grant for running the LEM to provide CBL simulations, and guidance in interpretation of the results. T. Dunbar was funded through a Natural Environment Research Council Grant Reference Number NE/F00706X/1.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MeteorologyUniversity of ReadingReadingUK

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