The Atmospheric Boundary Layer and the “Gray Zone” of Turbulence: A Critical Review

Rachel Honnert, Georgios A. Efstathiou, Robert J. Beare, Junshi Ito, Adrian Lock, Roel Neggers, Robert S. Plant, Hyeyum Hailey Shin, Lorenzo Tomassini, Bowen Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Recent increases in computing power mean that atmospheric models for numerical weather prediction are now able to operate at grid spacings of the order of a few hundred meters, comparable to the dominant turbulence length scales in the atmospheric boundary layer. As a result, models are starting to partially resolve the coherent overturning structures in the boundary layer. In this resolution regime, the so-called boundary layer “gray zone,” neither the techniques of high-resolution atmospheric modeling (a few tens of meters resolution) nor those of traditional meteorological models (a few kilometers resolution) are appropriate because fundamental assumptions behind the parameterizations are violated. Nonetheless, model simulations in this regime may remain highly useful. In this paper, a newly formed gray zone boundary layer community lays the basis for parameterizing gray zone turbulence, identifies the challenges in high-resolution atmospheric modeling and presents different gray zone boundary layer models. We discuss both the successful applications and the limitations of current parameterization approaches, and consider various issues in extending promising research approaches into use for numerical weather prediction. The ultimate goal of the research is the development of unified boundary layer parameterizations valid across all scales.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2019JD030317
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jul 16


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