Spatial structures and scaling in the Convective Boundary Layer

Abstract

We performed an investigation on spatial features of the Convective Boundary Layer (CBL) of the atmosphere, which was simulated in a laboratory model and analyzed by means of image analysis techniques. This flow is dominated by large, anisotropic vortical structures, whose spatial organization affects the scalar transport and therefore the fluxes across the boundary layer. With the aim of investigating the spatial structure and scaling in the Convective Boundary Layer, two-dimensional velocity fields were measured, on a vertical plane, by means of a pyramidal Lucas–Kanade algorithm. The coherent structures characterizing the turbulent convection were educed by analyzing the Finite-Time Lyapunov Exponent fields, which also revealed interesting phenomenological features linked to the mixing processes occurring in the Convective Boundary Layer. Both velocity and vorticity fields were analyzed in a scale-invariance framework. Data analysis showed that normalized probability distribution functions for velocity differences are dependent on the scale and tend to become Gaussian for large separations. Extended Self Similarity holds true for velocity structure functions computed within the mixing layer, and their scaling exponents are interpreted well in the phenomenological framework of the Hierarchical Structure Model. Specifically, β parameter, which is related to the similarity between weak and strong vortices, reveals a higher degree of intermittency for the vertical velocity component with respect to the horizontal one. On the other hand, the analysis of circulation structure functions shows that scaling exponents are fairly constant in the lowest part of the mixed layer, and their values are in agreement with those reported in Benzi et al. (Phys Rev E 55:3739–3742, 1997) for shear turbulence. Moreover, the relationship between circulation and velocity scaling exponents is analyzed, and it is found to be linear in the bottom part of the mixing layer. The investigation of the CBL spatial features, which has seldom been studied experimentally, has important implications for the comprehension of the mixing dynamics, as well as in turbulence closure models.

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Acknowledgments

The authors are grateful to Antonio Mascia for his valuable contribution to the experimental work.

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Correspondence to M. G. Badas.

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Badas, M.G., Querzoli, G. Spatial structures and scaling in the Convective Boundary Layer. Exp Fluids 50, 1093–1107 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00348-010-1020-z

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Keywords

  • Mixed Layer
  • Convective Boundary Layer
  • Interrogation Window
  • Lagrangian Coherent Structure
  • Velocity Structure Function