The Effect of Scale on the Applicability of Taylor's Frozen Turbulence Hypothesis in the Atmospheric Boundary Layer

Chad W. Higgins, Martin Froidevaux, Valentin Simeonov, Nikki Vercauteren, Caitlin Barry, Marc B. Parlange

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46 Citations (Scopus)


Taylor's frozen turbulence hypothesis is the central assumption invoked in most experiments designed to investigate turbulence physics with time resolving sensors. It is also frequently used in theoretical discussions when linking Lagrangian to Eulerian flow formalisms. In this work we seek to quantify the effectiveness of Taylor's hypothesis on the field scale using water vapour as a passive tracer. A horizontally orientated Raman lidar is used to capture the humidity field in space and time above an agricultural region in Switzerland. High resolution wind speed and direction measurements are conducted simultaneously allowing for a direct test of Taylor's hypothesis at the field scale. Through a wavelet decomposition of the lidar humidity measurements we show that the scale of turbulent motions has a strong influence on the applicability of Taylor's hypothesis. This dependency on scale is explained through the use of dimensional analysis. We identify a 'persistency scale' that can be used to quantify the effectiveness of Taylor's hypothesis, and present the accuracy of the hypothesis as a function of this non-dimensional length scale. These results are further investigated and verified through the use of large-eddy simulations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-391
Number of pages13
JournalBoundary-Layer Meteorology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Atmospheric boundary layer
  • Humidity
  • Raman lidar
  • Taylor's frozen turbulence hypothesis

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