NWC REU 2020
May 26 - July 31



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Decoding the Stable Boundary Layer: Comparing Stable Conditions in the Arctic Stable Boundary Layer over Finland and Alaska

Jordan Robinson, Brian R. Greene, Francesca M. Lappin, and Elizabeth A. Pillar-Little


What is already known:

  • Ultra-stable conditions are common in the nighttime arctic boundary layer.
  • Turbulence is small and intermittent in stable conditions.
  • The equations governing the boundary layer are complex and involve many unknown terms.

What this study adds:

  • The arctic boundary layer is made up of several inversion and stratified layers.
  • An objective algorithm to determine the strength and depth of inversion layers within temperature profiles from radiosondes and UAS observations showed daily variations in the magnitude and locations of these inversions.
  • The boundary layer over North Alaska appears to be more saturated than the boundary layer over Finland.


The boundary layer is one of the least understood areas of meteorology. The lowest kilometer of the troposphere, it is governed by the forces of the Earth’s surface. At night, the boundary layer becomes negatively buoyant, creating a surface inversion layer. However, multiple layers of inversions are often present. In the arctic, stable conditions are nearly constant due to the presence of glaciers and sea ice. These conditions are particularly strong at night. Looking at profiles of the boundary layer from Northern Finland and North Alaska, temperature, potential temperature, wind, and relative humidity were examined in an effort to better understand conditions marking the stable boundary layer. Layered inversions were present over both locations, while Finland showed a more stable environment.

Full Paper [PDF]