Articles | Volume 12, issue 8
Research article
30 Apr 2015
Research article |  | 30 Apr 2015

Large-eddy simulations of surface roughness parameter sensitivity to canopy-structure characteristics

K. D. Maurer, G. Bohrer, W. T. Kenny, and V. Y. Ivanov

Abstract. Surface roughness parameters, namely the roughness length and displacement height, are an integral input used to model surface fluxes. However, most models assume these parameters to be a fixed property of plant functional type and disregard the governing structural heterogeneity and dynamics. In this study, we use large-eddy simulations to explore, in silico, the effects of canopy-structure characteristics on surface roughness parameters. We performed a virtual experiment to test the sensitivity of resolved surface roughness to four axes of canopy structure: (1) leaf area index, (2) the vertical profile of leaf density, (3) canopy height, and (4) canopy gap fraction. We found roughness parameters to be highly variable, but uncovered positive relationships between displacement height and maximum canopy height, aerodynamic canopy height and maximum canopy height and leaf area index, and eddy-penetration depth and gap fraction. We also found negative relationships between aerodynamic canopy height and gap fraction, as well as between eddy-penetration depth and maximum canopy height and leaf area index. We generalized our model results into a virtual "biometric" parameterization that relates roughness length and displacement height to canopy height, leaf area index, and gap fraction. Using a decade of wind and canopy-structure observations in a site in Michigan, we tested the effectiveness of our model-driven biometric parameterization approach in predicting the friction velocity over heterogeneous and disturbed canopies. We compared the accuracy of these predictions with the friction-velocity predictions obtained from the common simple approximation related to canopy height, the values calculated with large-eddy simulations of the explicit canopy structure as measured by airborne and ground-based lidar, two other parameterization approaches that utilize varying canopy-structure inputs, and the annual and decadal means of the surface roughness parameters at the site from meteorological observations. We found that the classical representation of constant roughness parameters (in space and time) as a fraction of canopy height performed relatively well. Nonetheless, of the approaches we tested, most of the empirical approaches that incorporate seasonal and interannual variation of roughness length and displacement height as a function of the dynamics of canopy structure produced more precise and less biased estimates for friction velocity than models with temporally invariable parameters.

Short summary
We used large-eddy simulations to test the sensitivity of roughness parameters to characteristics of canopy structure. We found that displacement height scaled with maximum canopy height, aerodynamic canopy height with maximum canopy height and leaf area index, and eddy-penetration depth with gap fraction. Using a decade of observations, we found that fixed parameterizations of roughness performed well but that empirical approaches that incorporated canopy structure preformed even better.
Final-revised paper