Boundary-Layer Meteorology

, Volume 157, Issue 3, pp 401–420 | Cite as

Thermodynamic and Turbulence Characteristics of the Southern Great Plains Nocturnal Boundary Layer Under Differing Turbulent Regimes

  • Timothy A. BoninEmail author
  • William G. Blumberg
  • Petra M. Klein
  • Phillip B. Chilson


The nocturnal stable boundary layer (SBL) can generally be classified into the weakly stable boundary layer (wSBL) and very stable boundary layer (vSBL). Within the wSBL, turbulence is relatively continuous, whereas in the vSBL, turbulence is intermittent and not well characterized. Differentiating characteristics of each type of SBL are still unknown. Herein, thermodynamic and kinematic data collected by a suite of instruments in north central Oklahoma in autumn 2012 are analyzed to better understand both SBL regimes and their differentiating characteristics. Many low-level jets were observed during the experiment, as it took place near a climatological maximum. A threshold wind speed, above which bulk shear-generated turbulence develops, is found to exist up to 300 m. The threshold wind speed must also be exceeded at lower heights (down to the surface) in order for strong turbulence to develop. Composite profiles, which are normalized using low-level jet scaling, of potential temperature, wind speed, vertical velocity variance, and the third-order moment of vertical velocity (\(\overline{w'^3}\)) are produced for weak and moderate/strong turbulence regimes, which exhibit features of the vSBL and wSBL, respectively. Within the wSBL, turbulence is generated at the surface and transported upward. In the vSBL, values of vertical velocity variance are small throughout the entire boundary layer, likely due to the fact that a strong surface inversion typically forms after sunset. The temperature profile tends to be approximately isothermal in the lowest portions of the wSBL, and it did not substantially change over the night. Within both types of SBL, stability in the residual layer tends to increase as the night progresses. It is thought that this stability increase is due to differential warm air advection, which frequently occurs in the southern Great Plains when southerly low-level jets and a typical north–south temperature gradient are present. Differential radiative flux divergence also contributes to this increase in stability.


Doppler lidar Low-level jet Nocturnal boundary layer Stable boundary layer Turbulence 



We acknowledge everyone who helped to deploy and maintain the instruments during LABLE-I. Additionally, we thank Dave Turner for his help in interpreting observations from the AERI. This study was supported by funding from the Office of the Vice President for Research at the University of Oklahoma. The instruments deployed were in part funded through the NSF Career award ILREUM (NSF ATM 0547882). Data from the ARM SGP site were obtained from the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Program sponsored by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Climate and Environmental Sciences Division.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy A. Bonin
    • 1
    Email author
  • William G. Blumberg
    • 1
  • Petra M. Klein
    • 1
  • Phillip B. Chilson
    • 2
  1. 1.School of MeteorologyUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA
  2. 2.Advanced Radar Research Center and School of MeteorologyUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA

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