What controls the mean depth of the PBL?


Medeiros, B, A Hall, and B Stevens. 2005. “What controls the mean depth of the PBL?” Journal of Climate 18: 3157–3172.


The depth of the planetary boundary layer (PBL) is a climatologically important quantity that has received little attention on regional to global scales. Here a 10-yr climatology of PBL depth from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) atmospheric GCM is analyzed using the PBL mass budget. Based on the dominant physical processes, several PBL regimes are identified. These regimes tend to exhibit large-scale geographic organization. Locally generated buoyancy fluxes and static stability control PBL depth nearly everywhere, though convective mass flux has a large influence at tropical marine locations. Virtually all geographical variability in PBL depth can be linearly related to these quantities. While dry convective boundary layers dominate over land, stratocumulus-topped boundary layers are most common over ocean. This division of regimes leads to a dramatic land–sea contrast in PBL depth. Diurnal effects keep mean PBL depth over land shallow despite large daytime surface fluxes. The contrast arises because the large daily exchange of heat and mass between the PBL and free atmosphere over land is not present over the ocean, where mixing is accomplished by turbulent entrainment. Consistent treatment of remnant air from the deep, daytime PBL is necessary for proper representation of this diurnal behavior over land. Many locations exhibit seasonal shifts in PBL regime related to changes in PBL clouds. These shifts are controlled by seasonal variations in buoyancy flux and static stability.

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See also: Oceans
Last updated on 03/25/2020