ESRL Integrating Research and Technology Themes

Surface and Planetary Boundary Layer Processes

  1. Goal and Scope
  2. The scope includes air-sea, air-land, and air-ice interactions, the role of surface processes in driving the Planetary Boundary Layer (PBL), the properties of the PBL, and the dynamics of the interactions of the PBL with the overlying free troposphere.

    Because PBL research is distributed across several OAR laboratories, a crosscutting PBL theme group was formed in Boulder to achieve a more organized, holistic, and integrated attack on these problems. With the formation of the Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL), it is expected that this group will grow to include all the new Divisions and partners from CIRES.

    The goals are to both advance the state of scientific knowledge and to advance the application of that knowledge to improve and evaluate operational and research models for weather, air quality, and climate. ESRL is a unique force in NOAA for an end-to-end attack on this problem, starting at fundamental technology development and ending at model products.

  3. Rationale and Payoffs
  4. Surface/PBL research at ESRL draws on our unique strengths in in situ and surface-based remote sensing, which is ideally suited to investigate processes near the surface. ESRL boasts internationally recognized leaders in surface flux parameterizations, PBL clouds, mesoscale modeling, radiative flux measurements, measurement of air-sea gas transfer, microwave remote sensing of surface properties, and lidar technology.

    Research is conducted in a spectrum of organizational levels from individual research projects to highly managed programs jointly conducted with other OAR labs, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science (CIRES), other national labs (NCAR, NRL, LANL, etc.), U.S. universities, and international research organizations.

    Work is done at virtually all time/space scales relevant to NOAA's mission from how evaporation of sea spray influences the growth of hurricanes, how PBL processes affect urban air pollution, the stability of the Arctic ice cap, and the role of air-surface transfer in the long term carbon cycle of the earth.

    Remote sensing is a cornerstone of Surface/PBL research, but the program is quite diverse with significant efforts in theory, parameterization, numerical modeling, in situ measurements, integrated systems, verification of satellite products, and fundamental technology development.

    The work impacts NOAA strategically through, for example, parameterizations implemented in operation weather forecasts to new technologies for the global observing network. Implementation of advances in surface and PBL understanding for the next generation operational weather forecast model (WRF) at ESRL will form a second cornerstone of this effort.

  5. Major Collaborators and Their Research Foci
    1. Earth System Research Laboratory
      • Physical Sciences Division: Programs in seagoing flux and PBL/cloud observations; airborne/shipborne/land-based microwave and lidar studies; LES, mesoscale, and WRF PBL model work; surface-layer and cloud-radiative parameterizations; Arctic climate change; development of satellite-based surface products.
      • Global Monitoring Division: Surface radiation and aerosol measurements at worldwide sites from Alaska to Antarctica.
      • Chemical Sciences Division: PBL aspects of air pollution, particle and gas transfer/ interactions.
      • Global Systems Division: LSM in Rapid Refresh model for WRF; assimilation of data in models; WRF PBL physics; convective parameterizations.
    2. Other NOAA
      • Pacific Marine Environmental Lab: TAO buoy network; air-sea interaction; PBL processes.
      • Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Lab: Hurricane research; forcing of Atlantic climate variability.
      • Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab: Numerical modeling of LSM and PBL feedbacks and processes for climate.
      • Office of Global Programs: Focused projects that couple intramural and extramural.
      • NWS and NOS: Collaborative new PBL parameterizations developed, evaluated, refined, distributed, and utilized, in particular NCEP.
    3. Others
      • CIRES: Weather and climate dynamics as well as terrestrial ecosystems
      • NASA: Joint programs in climate-scale PBL cloud process studies, air-sea fluxes including trace gases; development/verification of satellite surface and surface flux products
  6. Contributions to NOAA Goals
    • NOAA Strategic Plan FY 2005 - FY 2010. Performance Objective: "Increase development, application, and transition of advanced science and technology to operations and services"
    • NOAA 2007 Annual Guidance Memorandum. Advance NOAA's Modeling Capability. "Increased emphasis on developing and applying advance data assimilation techniques to use in situ and remotely sensed data in prediction models."
    • OAR Strategic Plan: FY 2005 - FY 2010. Mission Goal 2. "NOAA will work with national and international partners to increase understanding of the dynamics and impacts of coupled atmosphere-ocean-land system through research on climate variability and change"
  7. Major Information Products, Customers, and Linkages
    • New PBL parameterizations developed, evaluated, refined and distributed to the modeling community, in particular NCEP.
    • Understanding and communication of PBL role in the global weather and climate system.
    • Guidance for future observational enhancements for national and global observing systems that focus on the PBL.