Articles | Volume 7, issue 11
Research article
08 Nov 2014
Research article |  | 08 Nov 2014

Mixing-layer height retrieval with ceilometer and Doppler lidar: from case studies to long-term assessment

J. H. Schween, A. Hirsikko, U. Löhnert, and S. Crewell

Abstract. Aerosol signatures observed by ceilometers are frequently used to derive mixing-layer height (MLH) which is an essential variable for air quality modelling. However, Doppler wind lidar measurements of vertical velocity can provide a more direct estimation of MLH via simple thresholding. A case study reveals difficulties in the aerosol-based MLH retrieval during transition times when the mixing layer builds up in the morning and when turbulence decays in the afternoon. The difficulties can be explained by the fact that the aerosol distribution is related to the history of the mixing process and aerosol characteristics are modified by humidification. The results of the case study are generalized by evaluating one year of joint measurements by a Vaisala CT25K and a HALO Photonics Streamline wind lidar. On average the aerosol-based retrieval gives higher MLH than the wind lidar with an overestimation of MLH by about 300 m (600 m) in the morning (late afternoon). Also, the daily aerosol-based maximum MLH is larger and occurs later during the day and the average morning growth rates are smaller than those derived from the vertical wind. In fair weather conditions classified by less than 4 octa cloud cover the mean diurnal cycle of cloud base height corresponds well to the mixing-layer height showing potential for a simplified MLH estimation.

Short summary
Two different methods for the determination of the mixing layer height (MLH) are investigated with a one-year data set from central Europe: (i) based on a significant gradient of backscatter and (ii) on the vertical velocity. The aerosol-based method shows significant over-estimation in the morning hours when the ML grows into the residual layer and late afternoon hours when turbulent mixing decays. This results in systematic over-estimation of average characteristcs as e.g. maximum MLH.