PhD Thesis

Quality assurance for eddy covariance measurements of turbulent fluxes and its influence on the energy balance closure problem

Matthias Mauder (03/2002-01/2006)

Support: Thomas Foken

The eddy covariance method enables direct measurements of turbulent fluxes at the earth’s surface. Such measurements are required to study the surface energy balance and the exchange of gaseous air constituents. Due to improvements in the construction of adequate sensors and the progress in computer technology during the last decades this method is now well-established. However, a general failure to close the energy balance equation has been reported for many micrometeorological field experiments. This unre-solved problem motivated this dissertation, which aims at the quality assurance for eddy covariance measurements. The presented concept for quality assurance comprises inves-tigations on the accuracy of the deployed sensors and on the impact of the data analysis for such measurements. A specific focus is set on possible implications for the determi-nation of reliable CO2 flux estimates, since this issue gained importance during the last years for studies on the global carbon cycle related to global warming due to the green house effect. Data from several field experiments in Germany, California and Nigeria form the experimental basis for these investigations. A software package was developed to perform the necessary post processing for all eddy covariance measurements presented in this thesis. The results of sensor intercom-parison experiments show a typical random error of eddy covariance measurements of 5% for the sensible heat flux and 10% for the latent heat flux, if sensors are well-calibrated and maintained and the assumptions for this method are fulfilled. The appli-cability of an objective quality assessment scheme of flux data was demonstrated for large datasets from a field campaign comprising 14 measuring systems. The energy bal-ance closure problem has been studied at two exemplary sites. The energy balance could not be closed for measurements over an agricultural area in Germany. For this experi-ment the sum of turbulent heat fluxes was 30% smaller than the available energy at the surface. In contrast, no systematic bias of the energy balance could be found for meas-urements over fallow bush-land in Nigeria, although the measures of quality assurance were similar. Neither differences in instrumentation nor in the post-field data processing between both experiments can explain these findings. A further analysis of the dataset from the agricultural area in Germany showed that additional flux contributions can be found when extending the averaging time of covariances beyond the conventional 30 minute interval. The energy balance can even be closed for this site when applying an averaging time of 24 hours. Longwave flux contributions seem to be generated here by the much stronger heterogeneity of the surrounding terrain compared to the more or less homogeneous environment of the Nigerian site. The filtering of heterogeneity induced flux contributions from very low frequency covariances through the commonly used averaging times of less than 30 minutes is identified as major reason of the energy bal-ance closure problem. To improve the understanding of the processes leading to low frequency flux contributions a more detailed analysis of further experiments in combi-nation with large eddy simulation modelling are required. The impact of post-field data processing was not only evaluated for energy flux estimates but also for fluxes of CO2, which showed similar additional flux contributions for extended averaging times. Fi-nally, it was demonstrated that the quality assessment scheme presented in this thesis provides a fundamental and robust rejection criterion for a successful gap-filling strat-egy to determine annual sums of CO2 net ecosystem exchange.

last modified 2006-01-18