Separating remote fetch and local mixing influences on vertical radon measurements in the lower atmosphere

Authors

  • S. CHAMBERS,

    Corresponding author
    1. Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Institute for Environmental Research, Locked Bag 2001, Kirrawee DC, NSW 2232, Australia
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  • A. G. WILLIAMS,

    1. Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Institute for Environmental Research, Locked Bag 2001, Kirrawee DC, NSW 2232, Australia
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  • W. ZAHOROWSKI,

    1. Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Institute for Environmental Research, Locked Bag 2001, Kirrawee DC, NSW 2232, Australia
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  • A. GRIFFITHS,

    1. Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Institute for Environmental Research, Locked Bag 2001, Kirrawee DC, NSW 2232, Australia
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  • J. CRAWFORD

    1. Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Institute for Environmental Research, Locked Bag 2001, Kirrawee DC, NSW 2232, Australia
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e-mail: Scott.Chambers@ansto.gov.au

ABSTRACT

Two-point radon gradients provide a direct, unambiguous measure of near-surface atmospheric mixing. A 31-month data set of hourly radon measurements at 2 and 50 m is used to characterize the seasonality and diurnal variability of radon concentrations and gradients at a site near Sydney. Vertical differencing allows separation of remote (fetch-related) effects on measured radon concentrations from those due to diurnal variations in the strength and extent of vertical mixing. Diurnal composites, grouped according to the maximum nocturnal radon gradient (ΔCmax), reveal strong connections between radon, wind, temperature and mixing depth on subdiurnal timescales. Comparison of the bulk Richardson Number (RiB) and the turbulence kinetic energy (TKE) with the radon-derived bulk diffusivity (KB) helps to elucidate the relationship between thermal stability, turbulence intensity and the resultant mixing. On nights with large ΔCmax, KB and TKE levels are low and RiB is well above the ‘critical’ value. Conversely, when ΔCmax is small, KB and TKE levels are high and RiB is near zero. For intermediate ΔCmax, however, RiB remains small whereas TKE and KB both indicate significantly reduced mixing. The relationship between stability and turbulence is therefore non-linear, with even mildly stable conditions being sufficient to suppress mixing.

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