Planetary Boundary Layer (PBL) Group


To form a coordinated program for PBL research and promote the transition of results for NOAA research and operational uses.

The increasing complexity of environmental problems and the difficulty of translating fundamental understanding of PBL processes into information and products useful to The Nation has place new demands on the research enterprise at the NOAA Ocean and Atmosphere laboratories. Because PBL research is distributed across ETL divisional structure, a cross-cutting PBL theme group was formed to achieve a more organized, holistic, and integrated lab-wide attack on the problems. Our goals are to both advance the state of scientific knowledge and to advance the application of that knowledge.

PBL research at ETL draws on our unique strengths in surface-based remote sensing, which is ideally suited to investigate processes near the surface. PBL research at ETL traces it roots to the original Kansas and Minnesota field programs of the late 1960's and early 1970's when the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory (AFCRL) PBL group moved to Boulder and joined what was then the NOAA Wave Propagation Laboratory (now ETL). The construction of the 300-m tall tower at the Boulder Atmospheric Observatory (BAO) and the early application of mobile Doppler sodar, lidar and radar systems to various national studies of air quality, weather, and climate established ETL’s pre-eminence in this area.

PBL research at ETL is conducted in a spectrum of organizational levels from individual research projects funded by external agencies to highly managed programs jointly conducted with other Ocean and Atmospheric Research (OAR) laboratories, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science (CIRES), other national laboratories (NCAR, LANL, etc), U.S. universities, and international research organizations. Work is done at virtually all time/space scales relevant to NOAA's mission from how evaporation of sea spray influences the growth of hurricanes, how PBL processes affect urban air pollution, the stability of the Arctic ice cap, and the role of air-surface transfer in the long term carbon cycle of the earth.

Remote sensing is the cornerstone of PBL research at ETL, but the program is quite diverse with significant efforts in theory, parameterization, numerical modeling, in situ measurements, integrated systems, and fundamental technology development. Our work impacts NOAA strategically through, for example, parameterizations implemented in operation weather forecasts to new technologies for the global observing network. Implementation of the next generation operational weather forecast model (WRF) at ETL will form a second cornerstone of this effort.