21 Apr 2022
21 Apr 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

Atmospheric boundary layer height from ground-based remote sensing: a review of capabilities and limitations

Simone Kotthaus1, Juan Antonio Bravo-Aranda1,2,9, Martine Collaud Coen3, Juan Luis Guerrero-Rascado2,9, Maria João Costa4, Domenico Cimini5,6, Ewan J. O’Connor7, Maxime Hervo3, Lucas Alados-Arboledas2,9, María Jiménez-Portaz2,9, Lucia Mona5, Dominique Ruffieux3, Anthony Illingworth8, and Martial Haeffelin1 Simone Kotthaus et al.
  • 1Institut Pierre Simon Laplace (IPSL), CNRS, École Polytechnique, Institut Polytechnique de Paris, 91128 Palaiseau Cedex, France
  • 2University of Granada, Granada, Spain
  • 3Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology, MeteoSwiss, Payerne, Switzerland
  • 4Earth Remote Sensing Laboratory (EaRSLab), Institute of Earth Sciences (ICT) and Physics Department, University of Évora, Évora, Portugal
  • 5National Research Council of Italy, Institute of Methodologies for Environmental Analysis (CNR-IMAA), Potenza, Italy
  • 6CETEMPS, University of L’Aquila, L’Aquila, Italy
  • 7Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland
  • 8Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom
  • 9Andalusian Institute for Earth System Research, Granada, Spain

Abstract. The atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) height defines the volume of air within which heat, moisture and pollutants released at the Earth’s surface are rapidly diluted. Despite the importance for air quality interpretation, numerical weather prediction, greenhouse gas assessment and renewable energy applications, amongst others, quantitative knowledge on the temporal and spatial variation in ABL height is still scarce. With continuous profiling of the entire ABL vertical extent at high temporal and vertical resolution now increasingly possible due to recent advances in ground-based remote sensing measurement technology and algorithm development, there are also dense measurement networks emerging across Europe and other parts of the world. To effectively monitor the spatial and temporal evolution of the ABL continuously at continent-scale, harmonised operations and data processing are key. Autonomous ground-based remote sensing instruments, such as microwave radiometers, radar wind profilers, Doppler wind lidars or automatic lidars and ceilometers, each offer different capabilities. The overarching objective of this review is to emphasize how these instruments are best exploited with informed network design, algorithm implementation, and data interpretation. A summary of the capability and limitations of each instrument type is provided together with a review of the vast number of retrieval methods developed for ABL height detection from different atmospheric quantities (temperature, humidity, wind, turbulence, aerosol). It is outlined how the diurnal evolution of the ABL can be monitored effectively with a combination of methods, highlighting where instrument or methodological synergy promise to be particularly valuable. To demonstrate the vast potential of increased ABL monitoring efforts, long-term observational studies are reviewed summarising our current understanding of ABL height variations. The review emphasizes that harmonised data acquisition and careful data processing are key to obtaining high-quality products, which are essential to capture the spatial and temporal complexity of the lowest part of the atmosphere in which we live and breathe.

Simone Kotthaus et al.

Status: open (until 26 May 2022)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • CC1: 'Comment on amt-2022-14', Francesc ROCADENBOSCH, 25 Apr 2022 reply
  • RC1: 'Comment on amt-2022-14', Frank Beyrich, 24 May 2022 reply

Simone Kotthaus et al.

Simone Kotthaus et al.


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Short summary
This review summarises capabilities and limitations of the methods available to monitor atmospheric boundary layer heights and characteristics. It is highlighted how atmospheric profile observations can best be exploited to inform measurement network design, algorithm implementation, and sound data interpretation. An overview of long-term observational studies demonstrates the value of such observations for advancing our understanding of ABL variability.