Scientific References

Peer Reviewed Literature: Characterizing moisture exchange between the Hawaiian convective boundary layer and free troposphere using stable isotopes in water

Authors Bailey, A., Toohey, D. and Noone, D.
Presented at
Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 2013, Vol. 118, Issue 15, 8208-8221


The subtropical convective boundary layer (CBL) plays a critical role in climate by regulating the vertical exchange of moisture, energy, trace gases, and pollutants between the ocean surface and free troposphere. Yet bulk features of this exchange are poorly constrained in climate models. To improve our understanding of moisture transport between the boundary layer and free troposphere, paired measurements of water vapor mixing ratio and the stable isotope ratio 18O/16O are used to evaluate moist convective mixing and entrainment processes near the Big Island of Hawai′i. Profile data from the Island's east side are consistent with moist adiabatic processes below the trade wind temperature inversion. In contrast, profiles on the west side follow moist adiabatic lapse rates within discrete stable layers, suggesting moist convection sets the humidity structure of even the unsaturated regions around the Island. Above the trade wind inversion, the transition from well-mixed boundary layer to free troposphere is characterized by a simple mixing line analysis, so long as the thermodynamic properties of the air mass at CBL top are known. Deviations from the mixing line identify thermodynamic boundaries in the atmospheric profile, which can persist from one day to the next. These findings indicate residual layers form during strong mixing events and regulate vertical moisture transport for multiple days at a time. Basic assumptions that synoptic-scale transport controls isotope ratios at CBL top are therefore not sufficient for describing moisture exchange between the boundary layer and free troposphere in the subtropics.