Schaller, C; Göckede, M; Foken, T: Flux calculation of short turbulent events – comparison of three methods, Atmospheric Measurements Techniques Discussions (2016), doi:10.5194/amt-2016-259 [Link]

The eddy covariance method is commonly used to calculate vertical turbulent exchange fluxes between ecosystems and the atmosphere. Besides other assumptions, it requires steady state flow conditions. If this requirement is not fulfilled over the averaging interval of, e.g., 30 min, the fluxes might be mis-calculated. Here two further calculation methods, conditional sampling and wavelet analysis, which do not need the steady state assumption, were implemented and compared to eddy covariance. All fluxes were calculated for 30 min averaging periods, while the wavelet method – using both the Mexican hat and the Morlet wavelet – additionally allowed to obtain a 1 min averaged flux.

The results of all three methods were validated against each other for times with best steady state conditions and well developed turbulence. An excellent agreement of the wavelet results to the eddy covariance reference was found, where the deviations to eddy covariance were on the order of on the order of < 2 % for Morlet as well as < 7 % for Mexican hat and  thus within the typical error range of eddy covariance measurements. The conditional sampling flux also showed a very good agreement to the eddy covariance reference, but the occurrence of outliers and the necessary condition of a zero mean vertical wind velocity harmed its general reliability. Using the Mexican hat wavelet flux in a case study, it was possible to locate a nightly short time turbulent event exactly in time, while the Morlet wavelet gave a trustworthy flux over a longer period, e.g., 30 min, under consideration of this short-time event. 

At a glance, the Mexican hat wavelet flux offers the possibility of a detailed analysis of non-stationary times, where the classical eddy covariance method fails. Additionally, the Morlet wavelet should be used to provide a trustworthy flux in those 30-minute-periods where eddy covariance led to low quality due to instationarities.

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