The transport and dispersion of airborne contaminants in boundary layers over the ocean and an isolated island cape

D. D. Reible, F. H. Shair, R. J. Cayer, D. W. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

A series of sixteen atmospheric tracer experiments using sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), chemical smoke and meteorological balloons was conducted to explore the transport of airborne contaminants in the boundary layer over the ocean surface and in the separating boundary layer over an isolated island cape. The immediate objective of the tests was to determine the impact of local pollutant sources on a background air quality sampling program conducted in the South Pacific from elevated towers on Tutuila Island, American Samoa. In addition to satisfying this objective, the tests are of interest in that they illustrate the local behavior of pollutants in a complex natural atmospheric flow. Offshore tracer tests indicated that the crosswind dispersion of pollutants over the ocean surface can be approximately modeled using the simple Gaussian plume model. The observed crosswind dispersion of the tracer corresponded to that expected under neutrally stable atmospheric conditions, consistent with the near equilibration of the ocean surface and air temperature in the South Pacific. Local, or near-field, tests indicated that tracer released into the wake downwind of the leading edge of the cape mixed rapidly to a height of about 8 m above the surface (i.e., 30-40% of the cape height). Due to decoupling between the boundary layer over the cape and the freestream flow, however, very little of the tracer was observed above this height. This suggests that the impact of local pollutant sources (i.e., on the cape) would be minimized if the proposed sampling towers were elevated significantly above an 8 m altitude (e.g., twice that height).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-102
Number of pages10
JournalBoundary-Layer Meteorology
Volume39
Issue number1-2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1987

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