A New Method for the Determination of Area-Averaged Turbulent Surface Fluxes from Low-Level Flights Using Inverse Models

The low-level flight method (LLF) has been combined with linear inverse models (IM) resulting in an LLF+IM method for the determination of area-averaged turbulent surface fluxes. With this combination, the vertical divergences of the turbulent latent and sensible heat fluxes were calculated from horizontal flights. The statistical errors of the derived turbulent surface fluxes were significantly reduced. The LLF+IM method was tested both in numerical and field experiments. Large-eddy simulations (LES) were performed to compare ‘true’ flux profiles with ‘measurements’ of simulated flights in an idealised convective boundary layer. Small differences between the ‘true’ and the ‘measured’ fluxes were found, but the vertical flux divergences were correctly calculated by the LLF+IM method. The LLF+IM method was then applied to data collected during two flights with the Helipod, a turbulence probe carried by a helicopter, and with the research aircraft Do128 in the LITFASS-98 field campaign. The derived surface fluxes were compared with results from eddy-covariance surface stations and with large-aperture scintillometer data. The comparison showed that the LLF+IM method worked well for the sensible heat flux at 77 and 200m flight levels, and also for the latent heat flux at the lowest level. The model quality control indicated failures for the latent heat flux at the 200m level (and higher), which were probably due to large moisture fluctuations that could not be modelled using linear assumptions. Finally the LLF+IM method was applied to more than twenty low-level flights from the LITFASS-2003 experiment. Comparison with aggregated surface flux data revealed good agreement for the sensible heat flux but larger discrepancies and a higher statistical uncertainty for the latent heat flux.


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