Original paper

The structure of Kármán vortex streets in the atmospheric boundary layer derived from large eddy simulation

Heinze, Rieke; Raasch, Siegfried; Etling, Dieter

Meteorologische Zeitschrift Vol. 21 No. 3 (2012), p. 221 - 237

published: Jun 1, 2012

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Kármán vortex streets generated in the wake of an idealized island are studied using large eddy simulation (LES). Simulations were carried out under conditions of a dry convective boundary layer, capped by an inversion below the island top. These conditions are more realistic compared to previous studies in which mesoscale models with a uniform stable stratification were used. Several properties of the vortex streets like the shedding period of the vortices and the distances between cyclonic and anti-cyclonic vortices were determined for various values of Froude number and surface heat flux. The main focus of the study was to identify the azimuthally averaged structure of fully developed single vortices, which is presented here for the first time. For this purpose a tracking mechanism was developed which allows to detect and to follow vortices automatically. Because the capping inversion is located below the obstacle top, the vortices extend throughout the whole depth of the mixed layer and their features are almost constant with height. They have a nearly upright vertical axis with a warm core, which is feeded by a convergent near-surface inflow of warm air. The vortex core is dominated by a continuous updraft in the order of 10 cm s-1, which is associated with a divergent outflow of air at the vortex' top. This flow divergence creates an additional increase in temperature due to a locally sinking inversion, which is probably responsible for the cloud-free eye of many observed vortices. An increase in the surface heat flux is causing a faster decay of the vortices due to stronger boundary layer turbulence. Other vortex features derived from the simulations are very similar to those from previous studies.