Measurements of mixing parameters in atmospheric stably stratified parallel shear flow

Patrick Conry*, Eliezer Kit, Harindra J.S. Fernando

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The mixing coefficient Г = B/ε, defined as the ratio of the magnitude of buoyancy flux B to the rate of turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) dissipation ε, plays a key role in modeling atmospheric and oceanic flows. Г is sometimes estimated using yet another fundamental quantity, the flux Richardson number (or mixing efficiency) Rif = B/P, where P is the rate of production of TKE. In practice, Г and Rif are commonly assumed as constants, but studies show that they depend on multiple parameters determined by the type of flow, for example, the gradient Richardson number Rig for stratified shear flows. During the MATERHORN field program, direct measurements of velocity and temperature profiles as well as B, ε, and P were made over an extended period using a densely instrumented flux tower. A ~ 90 min period of stratified parallel shear flow was identified in the data record, including recurrent intervals of nominally stationary flow. Measurements during this period supported the study of mixing parameters as reported in this paper. Even for this case of nature resembling an ideal flow, Г was found to be dependent on multiple parameters. Nevertheless, for periods robustly identified as shear flow in equilibrium with embedded turbulence, the measurements were in agreement with those of past stratified shear flow experiments in the laboratory. This result points to the challenges of parameterizing turbulent mixing in environmental flow models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1177-1197
Number of pages21
JournalEnvironmental Fluid Mechanics
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Hot film measurements
  • Stably stratified shear flow
  • Turbulent mixing


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