An updated length-scale formulation for turbulent mixing in clear and cloudy boundary layers

G. Lenderink, A.A.M. Holtslag

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62 Citations (Scopus)


A new mixing-length scale is presented for turbulence-closure schemes, with special emphasis on neutral-to-convective conditions in clear and cloudy boundary layers. The length scale is intended for a prognostic turbulent-kinetic-energy closure. It is argued that present-day length-scale formulations may easily fail in one of two limiting situations. Schemes based on a local stability measure (e.g.the Richardson number) display unrealistic behaviour and instabilities in the convective limit. This strongly limits the representation of mixing in cloudy boundary layers. On the other hand, it is shown that non-local parcel methods may misrepresent mixing near the surface. The new length-scale formulation combines local and non-local stability in a new way; it uses vertical integrals over the stability (the Richardson number) in a simple 'parcel' framework. The length scale matches with surface-layer similarity for near-neutral conditions and displays a realistic convective limit. The use of the length-scale formulation can be extended easily to cloudy boundary layers. The scheme is numerically stable and computationally cheap. The behaviour of the length scale is evaluated in a single-column model (SCM) and in a high-resolution limited-area model (LAM). The SCM shows good behaviour in three cases with and without boundary-layer clouds. The prediction of the near-surface wind and temperature in the LAM compares favourably with tower measurements at Cabauw (the Netherlands).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3405-3427
JournalQuarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society
Issue number604
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • boundary-layer meteorology
  • clouds
  • turbulence
  • kinetic energy
  • shallow cumulus convection
  • large-eddy simulation
  • atmospheric models
  • parameterization
  • scheme
  • stratocumulus
  • fluxes
  • transport
  • impacts
  • wind


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