Experimental Investigation of Soil and Atmospheric Conditions on the Momentum, Mass, and Thermal Boundary Layers Above the Land Atmosphere Interface

Monday, 15 December 2014
Andrew Trautz, Kathleen M Smits, Tissa H Illangasekare and Paul Schulte, Colorado School of Mines, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Golden, CO, United States
The purpose of this study is to investigate the impacts of soil conditions (i.e. soil type, saturation) and atmospheric forcings (i.e. velocity, temperature, relative humidity) on the momentum, mass, and temperature boundary layers. The atmospheric conditions tested represent those typically found in semi-arid and arid climates and the soil conditions simulate the three stages of evaporation. The data generated will help identify the importance of different soil conditions and atmospheric forcings with respect to land-atmospheric interactions which will have direct implications on future numerical studies investigating the effects of turbulent air flow on evaporation.

The experimental datasets generated for this study were performed using a unique climate controlled closed-circuit wind tunnel/porous media facility located at the Center for Experimental Study of Subsurface Environmental Processes (CESEP) at the Colorado School of Mines. The test apparatus consisting of a 7.3 m long porous media tank and wind tunnel, were outfitted with a sensor network to carefully measure wind velocity, air and soil temperature, relative humidity, soil moisture, and soil air pressure. Boundary layer measurements were made between the heights of 2 and 500 mm above the soil tank under constant conditions (i.e. wind velocity, temperature, relative humidity). The soil conditions (e.g. soil type, soil moisture) were varied between datasets to analyze their impact on the boundary layers.

Experimental results show that the momentum boundary layer is very sensitive to the applied atmospheric conditions and soil conditions to a much less extent. Increases in velocity above porous media leads to momentum boundary layer thinning and closely reflect classical flat plate theory. The mass and thermal boundary layers are directly dependent on both atmospheric and soil conditions. Air pressure within the soil is independent of atmospheric temperature and relative humidity – wind velocity and soil moisture effects were observed. This data provides important insight into future work of accurately modeling the exchange processes associated with evaporation under various turbulent atmospheric conditions.