Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

Estimates of North American summertime planetary boundary layer depths derived from space-borne lidar

Authors

  • Erica L. McGrath-Spangler,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
    2. Now at Universities Space Research Association, Columbia, Maryland, USA
    3. Also at Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, USA
      Corresponding author: E. L. McGrath-Spangler, Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 610.1, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA. (emcgrath@atmos.colostate.edu)
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  • A. Scott Denning

    1. Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
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Corresponding author: E. L. McGrath-Spangler, Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 610.1, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA. (emcgrath@atmos.colostate.edu)

Abstract

[1] The planetary boundary layer (PBL) mediates exchanges of energy, moisture, momentum, carbon, and pollutants between the surface and the atmosphere. This paper is a first step in producing a space-based estimate of PBL depth that can be used to compare with and evaluate model-based PBL depth retrievals, inform boundary layer studies, and improve understanding of the above processes. In clear sky conditions, space-borne lidar backscatter is frequently affected by atmospheric properties near the PBL top. Spatial patterns of 5-year mean mid-day summertime PBL depths over North America were estimated from the CALIPSO lidar backscatter and are generally consistent with model reanalyses and AMDAR (Aircraft Meteorological DAta Reporting) estimates. The rate of retrieval is greatest over the subtropical oceans (near 100%) where overlying subsidence limits optically thick clouds from growing and attenuating the lidar signal. The general retrieval rate over land is around 50% with decreased rates over the Southwestern United States and regions with high rates of convection. The lidar-based estimates of PBL depth tend to be shallower than aircraft estimates in coastal areas. Compared to reanalysis products, lidar PBL depths are greater over the oceans and areas of the boreal forest and shallower over the arid and semiarid regions of North America.

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