Boundary-Layer Meteorology

, Volume 165, Issue 3, pp 519–534 | Cite as

Characteristics of Turbulent Airflow Deduced from Rapid Surface Thermal Fluctuations: An Infrared Surface Anemometer

  • Milad Aminzadeh
  • Daniel Breitenstein
  • Dani Or
Research Article


The intermittent nature of turbulent airflow interacting with the surface is readily observable in fluctuations of the surface temperature resulting from the thermal imprints of eddies sweeping the surface. Rapid infrared thermography has recently been used to quantify characteristics of the near-surface turbulent airflow interacting with the evaporating surfaces. We aim to extend this technique by using single-point rapid infrared measurements to quantify properties of a turbulent flow, including surface exchange processes, with a view towards the development of an infrared surface anemometer. The parameters for the surface-eddy renewal (\(\alpha \) and \(\beta )\) are inferred from infrared measurements of a single-point on the surface of a heat plate placed in a wind tunnel with prescribed wind speeds and constant mean temperatures of the surface. Thermally-deduced parameters are in agreement with values obtained from standard three-dimensional ultrasonic anemometer measurements close to the plate surface (e.g., \(\alpha = 3\) and \(\beta = 1/26~\hbox {(ms)}^{-1}\) for the infrared, and \(\alpha = 3\) and \(\beta = 1/19~\hbox {(ms)}^{-1}\) for the sonic-anemometer measurements). The infrared-based turbulence parameters provide new insights into the role of surface temperature and buoyancy on the inherent characteristics of interacting eddies. The link between the eddy-spectrum shape parameter \(\alpha \) and the infrared window size representing the infrared field of view is investigated. The results resemble the effect of the sampling height above the ground in sonic anemometer measurements, which enables the detection of larger eddies with higher values of \(\alpha \). The physical basis and tests of the proposed method support the potential for remote quantification of the near-surface momentum field, as well as scalar-flux measurements in the immediate vicinity of the surface.


Infrared anemometer Surface-renewal theory Thermal fluctuations Turbulent airflow 



Funding by the Swiss National Science Foundation (200021–113442) is gratefully acknowledged. The manuscript benefitted from valuable inputs of Stanislaus Schymanski and insightful discussions with Erfan Haghighi and his studies on the interaction of turbulent airflows with evaporating porous surfaces. We greatly appreciate the insightful and constructive comments made by three anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Systems ScienceETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland

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