Statistics of Absolute and Relative Dispersion in the Atmospheric Convective Boundary Layer: A Large-Eddy Simulation Study

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The influence of the different scales of turbulent motion on plume dispersion in the atmospheric convective boundary layer (CBL) is studied by means of a large-eddy simulation (LES). In particular, the large-scale (meandering) and small-scale (relative diffusion) contributions are separated by analyzing dispersion in two reference systems: the absolute (fixed) coordinate system and the coordinate system relative to the plume¿s instantaneous center of mass. In the relative coordinate system, the (vertically) inhomogeneous meandering motion is removed, and only the small-scale, homogeneous turbulent motion contributes to the dispersion process. First, mean plume position, dispersion parameters (variance), and skewness of the plume position are discussed. The analysis of the third-order moments shows how the structure and the symmetry of scalar distribution are affected with respect to the turbulent characteristics of the CBL (inhomogeneity of the large-scale vertical motion) and the presence of the boundary conditions (surface and top of the CBL). In fact, the reflection of the plume by the CBL boundaries generates the presence of nonlinear cross-correlation terms in the balance equation for the third-order moments of the plume position. As a result, the third-order moment of the absolute position is not balanced by the sum of the third-order moments of the meandering and relative plume position. Second, mean concentration and concentration fluctuations are calculated and discussed in both coordinate systems. The intensity of relative concentration fluctuation icr, which quantifies the internal (in plume) mixing, is explicitly calculated. Based on these results, a parameterization for the probability distribution function (PDF) of the relative concentration is proposed, showing very good agreement with the LES results. Finally, the validity of Gifford¿s formula, which relates the absolute concentration¿s high-order moments to the relative concentration and the PDF of the plume centerline, is studied. It is found that due to the presence of the CBL boundaries, Gifford¿s formula is not able to reproduce correctly the value of the absolute mean concentration near the ground. This result is analyzed by showing that, when the plume is reflected by the CBL boundaries, the instantaneous relative plume width z¿2r(t) departs from its mean value ¿2r. By introducing the skewness of the relative plume position into a parameterization for the relative mean concentration, the results for the calculated mean concentration are improved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1253-1272
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • meandering plume model
  • concentration fluctuations
  • mixed-layer
  • internal fluctuations
  • buoyant
  • pdf


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