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Dr. K. Ghosh
Agricultural Meteorology Division
India Meteorological Department

Scales of atmospheric systems and network of

The atmospheric systems vary widely in both space and time. Broadly we can
categorise in to 5 categories. They are
Micro scale
Meso scale
Synoptic scale
Macro scale
Planetary scale
Micro scale:
The formation of dew on the leaf of a plant and reduction in visibility over small
areas are examples of micro scale system.
To record and study these events we require observations with a spacing of few
metres and the observation should be recorded almost continuously.

Micrometeorology is a branch of meteorology which deals
with the atmospheric phenomena and physical processes
taking place over limited region of the surface of the earth in
the lowest layer of the atmosphere.
The development





Accurate observations made in the layers of air adjacent to

the surface.

The study of the physical processes which give rise to the


Importance of study of micrometeorology

It is the lowest atmosphere having many of its

characteristic properties on which much of life depends.

It is the region of turbulence at which the transport of

heat energy, momentum and moisture takes place.

It is the region at which exchange of CO2 between plant

and animal life, the scattering of pollen and the lighter
seeds, and the cycle of water occur.

Influence of soil surface on microclimate

Soil is acting as a sink of solar heat energy during the day
time and source to the surface at night.
Soil heat is the most important factor that controls the
intensity of biophysical, biochemical, microbiological and
micrometeorological processes that take place in and above
the soil.
Soil temperature is influenced by the mixing and transport
process of heat within the soil and by exchange of heat
between the soil and atmosphere. Heat transfer within the
soil can occur by conduction and convection.

Radiation budget at the land plant atmosphere interface

The energy balance at the surface is given by the equation,

Rn = E + C + G + P + S



Net radiation,
Latent heat of evaporation,
Sensible heat flux,
Ground heat flux,
Energy for photosynthesis,
Storage term.

The heat energy losses due to photosynthesis and storage within

the canopy is about 2 to 3% of net radiation.
The importance of the parameter Rn is that it is the fundamental
quantity of energy available at the earths surface to drive the
process of evaporation, photosynthesis etc.

The Net Radiation

The reflected portion of the total direct and diffused solar radiation (Rsw) is
determined by the reflectivity r of the underlying surface, that is

(Rsw ) = r (Rsw )
Thus, the shortwave radiation balance can be written as

Rswbal = (Rsw ) (Rsw ) = (1 r) Rsw

The arrows indicate the direction of the radiation streams.
The effective longwave balance is

Rlwbal = (Rlw Rlw )

The net of all the fluxes of radient energy Rn can, than, be written as

Rn= Rswbal + Rlwbal = (1-r) (Rsw ) + Rlwbal

= (1-r) (Rsw ) + Rlw Rlw
= (1-r) (Rsw ) + Rlw T4
where, T is the temperature of the earths surface and is Stefan Boltzmans
constant. The net radiation is the difference between total upward and downward
radiation fluxes and is a measure of the energy available at the ground surface.

Light penetration into plant canopies

The penetration of net radiation into plant canopies was introduced and
described as a function of depth into the canopy expressed in terms of
cumulative LAI.
The penetration of light into plant canopies can be described or
approximated in mathematical terms adopting the Beer-Bougher law as

exp( K e F )

where, Ke is an extinction coefficient for plant leaves and F is the downward

cumulative leaf area index, I is the intensity of light at a particular height
within the canopy and I0 is the intensity of light at the top of the canopy.
The extinction coefficient can be defined as the ratio between the light loss
through the leaf and the light at the top of the leaf.
The extinction coefficient varies with the orientation of the leaves.
Ke may range from 0.3 to 0.5 in upright leaf communities and from 0.7 to 1.0
in communities with horizontal leaves.

Understanding the relationship between radiation and crop production requires knowledge of radiation
distribution within the crop canopy based on the transmissibility of the leaf, leaf arrangement and
inclination, plant density, plant height and the angle of the sun.

Transmissibility varies slightly with the age of the leaf. The transmissibility of a young leaf is relatively
high. With the maturity of the leaf, it declines but rises again as the leaf turns yellow.

The transmissibility of a leaf is directly related to its chlorophyll content. The logarithm of
transmissibility decreases linearly with an increase in chlorophyll content. Transmissibility of leaves of
deciduous trees, herbs, and grasses ranges from 5 to 10%, whereas, that of evergreen plants varies from
2 to 8%.

If the leaves that transmit 10% of the radiation were horizontally displayed in continuous layers, only
1% of light, could penetrate the second layer.

However, leaves are rarely displayed horizontally. In full sunlight, the optimum leaf inclination for
efficient light use is 810. For the best results and in an ideal arrangement of the plant canopy, the lower
13% of the leaves should be oriented at an angle of 0 to 300, middle 37% of the leaves should be at 30 to
600 and the upper 50% leaves should be at 60 to 900 with the horizontal.

When the plant height increases, the interception of light by the canopy also increases with only a small
variation at different times of the day.

The interception of light is minimum at noon and maximum during morning and evening hours.

Different heat fluxes in micrometeorological studies

The source of heat fluxes is the solar radiation and it is transported by means
of turbulent mixing, conduction, convection and diffusion processes.
Different fluxes are

Soil Heat Flux

The rate of heat flux into soil is determined by the temperature gradient and the
thermal conductivity (K). The latter is defined as the quantity of heat flowing in
unit time through a unit cross section of soil in response to a specified temperature
gradient. K has units of Wm-1k-1.
The soil heat flux S, or heat flow into or out of the soil, is given by

where, dT/dz is the temperature gradient within the soil. All energy fluxes to the
surface will be considered positive and all away from the surface will be negative.
Thermal conductivity depends on porosity, moisture content, and organic matter
content of the soil. At similar moisture contents conductivity decreases from fine
sand to silt loam to clay soil because of the increasing porosity in this sequence of

Sensible Heat Flux

Sensible heat flux results from the difference in the temperature of the surface
and overlying air.
The transfer of this energy is mainly through molecular conduction in the
surface layer and turbulent mixing in the layer above the surface layer.
Normally during day time heat will be transferred from the warm ground or
crop surface to the cooler air above. At night, when the air is warm and the
surface is cool, the converse situation prevails and heat will be transferred to
the surface.

Sensible heat transfer in the atmospheric surface layer

The vertical flux of sensible heat H can be estimated by

a C
where, a is the air density,
Cpp K
is hthe
zspecific heat of air at constant pressure,
Kh is the turbulent exchange coefficient, and /z is the vertical gradient of
potential temperature.
In the first 2-3 m above the ground, /z can be approximated by /z, the
vertical gradient of actual temperature.

Resistance approach for estimating sensible heat flux

The flux of sensible heat may be conceived as a process analogous to the
flow of electrical current. In an analogy to Ohms Law, we can write

a C p (Ta Ts )

Where Ts and Ta are the surface and air temperatures, respectively, and ra
is the aerial (aerodynamic or boundary layer) resistance to the flow of
sensible heat. Sensible heat flux will increase with decreasing aerial
resistance ra.

Latent Heat flux

Latent heat flux results from the evaporation at the surface and
later condensation within the atmosphere.
Latent heat flux = Latent heat of evaporation x Rate of evaporation
Evaporation from water surface/wet soil depends upon
(1) Temperature of the surface,
(2) Vapour pressure deficit of adjacent air layer and
(3) Quality of water.

Bowen Ratio
Bowen ratio is defind as the ratio of sensible heat flux to latent heat flux lost by
a surface to the atmosphere by the process of conduction and turbulence.
Bowen (1926) proposed that

A (Ts Ta )

(e s e)
where, is Bowen ratio, Ts is the temperature of the surface and Ta is air
temperature, es is vapour pressure of the surface, and e is vapour pressure of air.
Bowen ratio is negative when heat is transferred from air to crop, and positive
when heat transfer is from crop to air.
Bowens ratio approach fails only when the value is less than -0.5. For wellwatered crops, the value of the Bowen ratio is usually in the neighbourhood of
0.1 during the day when the evaporation is large. Average value of Bowen ratio
for the ocean surface is +0.1.

Wind profile near the ground

Use of wind profile studies

The wind profile data provide a measurement of momentum flux and

are essential for evaluating the transfer of water vapour and CO 2 by
the so called aerodynamic approach.
(ii) The wind profile data also aid in estimating the wind speed at one
height from the measurement of another.

Properties of wind profile close to the surface


At or near the earths surface horizontal wind velocity is equal to

zero; and it increases with height above the surface.
(ii) Wind increases exponentially with height and wind gradient depends
upon wind velocity and surface condition.

Laminar sublayer
In considering the flow of air over the earths surface, there is a very thin layer of air
immediately above the surface where the transfer processes are controlled primarily by
molecular diffusion. This layer is called the laminar sublayer.
The laminar sublayer may be only a few millimeters thick and may, sometimes, be even
thinner, especially under windy conditions. The thickness of Laminar sublayer depends upon

Prevailing wind speed

Roughness of the surface

Above the laminar sublayer is the turbulent surface layer (or simply the surface layer) which
extends up to 50 100 m and is dominated by strong mixing or eddying motion.

The wind structure in this layer is primarily determined by the nature of the underlying
surface and the vertical gradient of the air temperature.
The effect of earths rotation, the coriolis force, is small and may be neglected as the
frictional effects of the surface dominate.

The planetary boundary layer, which envelops the surface layer and extends to about 1 km
above the surface, is a zone of transition from the disturbed flow near the surface to the
frictionless or smooth flow of the free atmosphere (Sutton, 1953).

Wind profile equation for short crop

At or near the surface of the ground, the horizontal wind velocity is

zero and increases with the height above the surface. The wind
gradient above the ground depends on the wind speed as well as the
surface conditions.

The wind profile over short crops may be expressed by the logarithmic



where u is the wind velocity at the height z; K is Van Karmans

constant having the value of 0.4; is air density; is the shearing
stress and z0 is the roughness parameter.

According to this equation, the wind speed near the ground increases
exponentially with height over a very smooth surface.

Wind profile equation for tall crops

The wind structure over a tall crop is different from that over a short
The wind profile changes abruptly at a height slightly below the
Above that height, the logarithmic relationship seems to hold; below it,
the wind speed is greatly reduced.
Therefore, the wind profile equation for tall crops should be modified
to the following form:

1 zd

K z

where, d is known as the zero plane displacement.

Roughness and zero plane displacement


Over a moderately rough surface (e.g. short grass), the logarithmic wind
profile holds true only above a hypothetical height z0, known as the roughness
of the surface.

For short vegetation, or relatively smooth surfaces, the roughness parameter is

relatively constant over a range of wind speeds. Typical values of roughness
are as follows:

Roughness (cm)
0 to 0.1

Open water

0.02 to 0.6

Snow surface

0.1 to 0.6

Short grass

0.6 to 4.0

Long grass

4.0 to 10.0

In general, roughness increases with the height of the vegetation.

Zero plane displacement

The zero plane displacement is roughly the order of the depth of the layer of air trapped among
the plants. In other words, it is a datum level, above which the normal turbulent exchange
takes place freely. The zero plane displacement may also be regarded as the sink for

Both z0 and d are geometric constants of the surface.

Under neutral conditions, the relationship between the wind velocity and the logarithm of
height is linear, and the intercept is the roughness.
However, over a tall crop, the relationship is curvilinear, and the departure from the straight
line is known as the zero plane displacement.

Significance of Roughness
The roughness of a surface has several implications in the micrometeorological
study of plant environment.

Firstly, other things being equal, an increase in roughness will cause lowering
of maximum temperature during the day time and a rise in the minimum
temperature at night.

Secondly, the rougher the surface, the greater the mixing and swirling.
According to the theory of turbulent transport, the rate of mixing, expressed
as a coefficient of diffusion, does not depend upon the wind speed, but upon
the rate of change with height of the wind speed. Over a rough surface, heat
and water vapour are readily transferred, even though the wind speed may be
fairly low. Therefore, other things being equal, the evapotranspiration of a
rough surface will exceed that of a smooth surface, especially in areas of strong

Thirdly, it would be difficult to determine the transfer of water vapour, CO 2

and other properties by the aerodynamic method for a crop whose roughness
and zero plane displacement vary greatly.