Modeling Atmospheric Turbulence via Rapid Distortion Theory: Spectral Tensor of Velocity and Buoyancy

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A spectral tensor model is presented for turbulent fluctuations of wind velocity components and temperature, assuming uniform vertical gradients in mean temperature and mean wind speed. The model is built upon rapid distortion theory (RDT) following studies by Mann and by Hanazaki and Hunt, using the eddy lifetime parameterization of Mann to make the model stationary. The buoyant spectral tensor model is driven via five parameters: the viscous dissipation rate epsilon, length scale of energy-containing eddies L, a turbulence anisotropy parameter Gamma, gradient Richardson number (Ri) representing the local atmospheric stability, and the rate of destruction of temperature variance eta(theta). Model output includes velocity and temperature spectra and associated cospectra, including those of longitudinal and vertical temperature fluxes. The model also produces two-point statistics, such as coherences and phases of velocity components and temperature. The statistics of uniformly sheared and stratified turbulence from the model are compared with atmospheric observations taken from the Horizontal Array Turbulence Study (HATS) field program, and model results fit observed one-dimensional spectra quite well. For highly unstable stratification, however, the model has deficiencies at low wavenumbers that limit its prediction of longitudinal velocity component spectra at scales on the order of 0.6 km. The model predicts coherences well for horizontal separations but overestimates vertical coherence with increasing separation. Finally, it is shown that the RDT output can deviate from Monin-Obukhov similarity theory.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)949-974
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Atmospheric Science
  • Boundary layer
  • Buoyancy
  • Fluxes
  • Stability
  • Turbulence
  • Wind shear
  • Atmospheric thermodynamics
  • Atmospheric turbulence
  • Boundary layer flow
  • Boundary layers
  • Convergence of numerical methods
  • Tensors
  • Velocity
  • Wind
  • Atmospheric observations
  • Energy-containing eddies
  • Horizontal array turbulence study field programs
  • Monin-Obukhov similarity theory
  • Rapid distortion theory
  • Stratified turbulence
  • Viscous dissipation rate
  • Wind shears
  • Atmospheric temperature
  • FLOW

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