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Geoscientific Model Development An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Model description paper 06 Mar 2019

Model description paper | 06 Mar 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Geoscientific Model Development (GMD).

Atmospheric boundary layer dynamics from balloon soundings worldwide: CLASS4GL v1.0

Hendrik Wouters1, Irina Y. Petrova1, Chiel C. van Heerwaarden2, Jordi Vilà-Guerau de Arellano2, Adriaan J. Teuling2, Vicky Meulenberg2, Joseph A. Santanello3, and Diego G. Miralles1 Hendrik Wouters et al.
  • 1Ghent University, Laboratory of Hydrology and Water Management, Coupure Links 653, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
  • 2Wageningen University and Research, Dept. of Environmental sciences, Postbox 47, 6700AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
  • 3National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Goddard Space Flight Center, Hydrological Sciences Laboratory (617), Greenbelt, MD, USA

Abstract. The coupling between soil, vegetation and atmosphere is thought to be crucial in the development and intensification of weather extremes, especially meteorological droughts, heatwaves and severe storms. Therefore, understanding evolution of the atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) and the role of land–atmosphere feedbacks is necessary for earlier warnings, better climate projection and timely societal adaptation. However, this understanding is hampered by the difficulties to attribute cause–effect relationships from complex coupled models, and the irregular space–time distribution of in situ observations of the land–atmosphere system. As such, there is a need for simple deterministic appraisals that systematically discriminate land–atmosphere interactions from observed weather phenomena over large domains and climatological time spans. Here, we present a new interactive data platform to study the behaviour of the ABL and land–atmosphere interactions based on worldwide weather balloon soundings and an ABL model. This software tool – referred to as CLASS4GL ( – is developed with the objectives to (a) mine appropriate global observational data from over 2 million weather balloon soundings since 1981 and combine them with satellite and reanalysis data, and (b) constrain and initialize a numerical model of the daytime evolution of the ABL that serves as a tool to interpret these observations mechanistically and deterministically. As a result, it fully automises extensive global model experiments to assess the effects of land and atmospheric conditions on the ABL evolution as observed in different climate regions around the world. The suitability of the set of observations, model formulations and global parameters employed by CLASS4GL is extensively validated. In most cases, the framework is able to realistically reproduce the observed daytime response of the ABL height, potential temperature and specific humidity from the balloon soundings. In this extensive global validation exercise, a bias of 0.2 m h−1, −0.052 K h−1 and 0.07 g kg−1 h−1 is found for the morning-to-afternoon evolution of the ABL height, potential temperature and specific humidity. The virtual tool is in continuous development, and aims to foster a better process-understanding of the drivers of the ABL evolution and their global distribution, particularly during the onset and amplification of weather extremes. Finally, it can also be used to scrutinize the representation of land–atmosphere feedbacks and ABL dynamics in Earth system models, numerical weather prediction models, atmospheric reanalysis, and satellite retrievals, with the ultimate goal to improve local climate projections, provide earlier warning of extreme weather, and foster a more effective development of climate adaptation strategies. The tool can be easily downloaded via and is open source.

Hendrik Wouters et al.
Interactive discussion
Status: open (until 01 May 2019)
Status: open (until 01 May 2019)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
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Hendrik Wouters et al.
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