Boundary Layer Observations and Processes

NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

Leads: Chris Fairall and Laura Bianco

The motion and mixing of air, moisture, and heat in the lowest few kilometers of atmosphere closest to the Earth’s surface drives weather and climate phenomena throughout the world. The right combination of conditions in this ‘boundary layer’ can influence how much rain will fall during a storm, the direction and distance that pollution is transported, or the strength and path of a hurricane, for example. Accurate measurements and better understanding of the atmospheric processes churning in the boundary layer are of key importance in improving weather and climate models and predictions.

PSL’s Boundary Layer Observations and Processes Team is focused on advancing the understanding of atmospheric boundary-layer processes to promote improved prediction, modeling and analysis of weather, climate, and hydrology. We strive to improve the characterization, understanding, and capability to predict boundary layer structure, surface interactions, and phenomena through application of expertise in remote sensing, boundary layer physics, and modeling. These improvements are applied to advance specific research and forecasting areas that have a strong dependence on boundary layer processes, such as air quality, hurricanes, and renewable energy.

We develop state-of-the-art the atmospheric and surface observing systems using a combination of commercial and in-house sensors and components. Data gathered from our systems are used to understand atmospheric boundary-layer processes, evaluate weather and climate models, and improve model parameterizations, satellite retrievals, and routine components of the atmospheric and oceanic observing systems. In some cases, the data are directly assimilated into operational and/or research weather models to investigate requirements for new observations and improved forecasts.

Current Research Activities

CHARACTERIZING air-sea flux measurements, from calm conditions to hurricane wind speeds, to improve forecasts of hurricane intensity.
smoke stacks
COLLABORATING with scientists around the world, to develop advanced methods for air quality models to improve forecasts of fine particle pollution – the small deadliest particles that can damage our lungs.
DEVELOPING observation technologies to improve NOAA’s contribution to the ocean climate observing system.
MEASURING boundary-layer interactions using our air-sea flux and cloud observing system, enabling research on processes driving tropical subseasonal variations such as the MJO and Atmospheric Rivers.
wind turbine
USING new atmospheric observing networks to better understand boundary layer phenomena & improve wind forecasts for wind energy planning.